THE OctoBER, 2023 30/30 PROJECT PAGE

Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.

The volunteer poets for August 2023 are Bill Abbott, Claudia Arevalo, Zoe Berger, Isaiah Diaz-Mays, Cathy Ferrell, Michelle Frost, Laura Henebry, Alex Moni-Sauri, Erika Sashedri, and Beth Suter. Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and warm up your pen!

Day 31 / Poem 31

Three sparrows work in the small palm tree / A Cento

with lines drawn from Bill Abbott, Claudia Arevalo, Zoe Berger, Isaiah Diaz-Mays, Cathy Ferrell, Michelle Frost, Laura Henebry, Alex Moni-Sauri, Erika Sashedri, and Beth Suter

seagulls bunch like flies on the eye of the ocean
a crisp fog that
grooves to the rhythm of the moon

us on the shore briefly lit up by our longings

What has been danced
Cannot be taken away 
like grandpa’s hands
furrowed palms, raked knuckles
hands that know harrows

I can get used to anything 
that goes in circles
the beautiful uncut hair of graves
the cat on the housesill, the chickadee 

I’m comfortable now
using words like God 
to mean the string
between two beads.

In my rattlesnake dreams
I’m always barefoot
Trapped behind these walls
The howling world waxes full
A fishing line draws a string of geese 
Supplying the feast
Glass slipper, self playing harp, poisoned apple

gauzy flame. 
our skin, papery
wings twirling towards this 

You’re the still point in the chaos of the universe 
once you stopped breathing
they said
you’d bled sunshine,
pure and golden.

A feeling of promise
before the frosts begin,
before the heavier coats,
the hot chocolate,
the bitter cold
that happens all too soon.

A kite imagines it is free in the clouds
The faces we love shining up to see us

Day 30 / Poem 30

Crimson / Bill Abbott

The primal desire is out again,
the constant call and demand
for blood,
either through violence
or religion,
almost casual in how often
it appears.

This word is all over
my algorithm,
suggesting a base hunger,
a societal vampiric lust,
and it fills me
with concern
for what we’ve become,
for where we will take this.

Things I’ve seen on the Subway / Claudia Arevalo

A woman clipping her nails onto her purse
A woman pooping against the wall 
A man trimming his beard with a pink disposable razor
An infinite number of rats scurrying on the tracks 
And most of my tribe smiling
A woman holding a bunch of balloons that could hardly fit inside the car
A group of school kids singing an inappropriate rap song to her 

Afters / Zoe Berger

I look at the moon 
and make things up. 
In another life 
we’d both be 
in blue aprons. 
Regardless my friends and I 
dance through the lunar
eclipse. I am finally convinced 
there is no other shoe. 
Patricia Fargnoli praised 
the roofers, laying down 
shingle after 
shingle. We dirtied 
all our cups, washed them 
with hot soap. 
Saw love
in empty cabinets. 

Ferrell Day 30 Spoiler Alert: She makes it / Cathy Ferrell

Final girl stumbles
out of dragon smut haze
as dark red voices reach, 
calling Leave us
the old relics

Rewrite the runes imprinted on your skin
Slather stinking mud on your face
Wield a wild blade and
You made it

out of the deep
cave, fangs and all.

When Things End Things Begin / Michelle Frost

Three sparrows work in the small palm tree
They strip dry strands from a dead frond
I order a blanket online   Pendleton is having a sale it’s time we all find warmth in the desert
Our mercury dropped to 55 degrees last night
We line our nests for the coming winter chill
And like the approaching Headless Horseman         hooves a-clatter on the dirt road from Hell
Halloween arrives in its blowing black cape
The grocery store displays are transformed 
summer fun to school supplies to Halloween
Suddenly skeletons   ghosts   bats   spiders &witches take over the store shelves & floors
boxes stacked into walls of candy for tricks-or-treats piled high like the bushels of pumpkins
& carving kits   autumn-scented candles
caramels for apples and whiskey for warlocks
This Wednesday morning it will all vanish
Christmas will magically appear like snow 
With new planograms and merch schematics October ends and November/Christmas begins
I sit each morning at my window with coffee winding-up for the day   preparing for chaos 
I carry this peace of sparrows and palm fronds
and the cat snoozing in a sunlit daydream
light as feathers   Here we go   stepping into November and the end of another year already
I work hard to keep my sanity   and joy &
hope in these next hectic festive months
Then a new door opens and together we enter

The dream of a far away place / Alex Moni-Sauri

In which man is a little circle or world
collecting atoms – heat, light, sound – on
the brief tight orbit around his mother,
the sea. He punishes her in small ways
as he goes about his day, spitting off the
pier and walking through a group of gulls
before enclosing himself in the smallest
and driest of places: his living room,
alone. With the doors all shut
he can still hear the waves, the froth
and salt, its endless churning and display.
When he dreams it is of a blank space
and silence.

T’was the Night Before Halloween / Erika Sashedri

Lisa Lee lay down her head
but couldn’t fall asleep.
The demon underneath her bed
was breathing much too deep.

“Keep it down,” Lisa pled
“In the morning I’ve a test!”
“Sorry, Lisa,” Demon said
and crawled out from his nest.

Horns protruded from his head.
Poison from his teeth dripped yellow.
His bumpy, scaly skin was red–
what a horrid, ugly fellow

“Remember, now, we have a deal,”
said Lisa, underneath the covers.
“If you get hungry for a meal
you have to eat my brothers.”

Hymn for the Ozarks / Beth Suter

                amazing grace—

tornado in Toad Suck, cave-light

                how sweet the sound—

rain on the camper shell
forty miles to Frogville, moss-light

                I once was lost—

 between Hickory Stump Hollow
and Turkey Knob, woodsmoke fog

                but now I’m found—

 Boone County Line, mayapple-light
Whole Hog Cafe: “everything but the squeal”

                was blind—

wiper’s busted, possum-light
a real toad strangler

                but now I see—

 too wet to plow, too thick to drink

Day 29 / Poem 29

Victory Laps of the Damned / Bill Abbott

We line up behind
each other in a conga line of
self-flagellation, singing songs of
whispered rumors, gave speeches of
malcontent and propagandized dreams.

We thoughtfully added sugar
to our sucked lemons,
gave away spoonfuls of
pity and despair and best wishes,
paved over our empathy for a  new
strip mall of merchandized thoughts and prayers.

We gave away everything that was not ours,
slept our way to the top of the food chain,
declared ourselves the victors
and the simultaneous victims,
and granted diplomas of expertise to each other.

Because why not? What better use of victory
than to do as selfishly as pleased?
What better point to society than to
bread and circus the wealthy and wonder
why everything tasted like vinegar
on a sugared tongue?

She’s so young  / Claudia Arevalo

And so brave 
At 29 she sold everything she had 
Left her country 
Crossed the northern part of South America
And Central America 
Costa Rica 
And then
Where she was detained
For two months 
And then reached NY at last 
To apply for asylum 
To get away 
From a man 
Who told her he loved her 
Until she got pregnant 
And then started to 
Pinch her arms 
Pull her hair 
Punch her in places 
Where bruises would not be seen 
Who took her baby 
When she was still breastfeeding 
And handed him to Bienestar Familiar
Just to hurt her 
Who threatened her 
With his family connections with the police 
His strength 
With kidnapping 
She was so scared of this monster 
That she braved 
Crossing the jungle 
On foot 
Crossing the land on buses 
Crossing rivers on small boats 
Sleeping in tents 
Relying on people’s charity 
Some helped 
Others hid with dark intentions 
In Mexico 
They were told Venezuelans
Go back home 
In Texas twelve were run over and killed
By a lunatic who hates immigrants
Why do people forget that 
We’re all humans 
They forget 
Why don’t we treat all others
As if they were our own 
Because they are our own 
Every child our child 
Every mother ours 
And I’m worried 
About her case
Her future 
Her beautiful baby boy’s future 
But I’m also terribly worried 
Because I saw 
Out of the corner of my eye 
That she was texting 
“Mi amor”
And he was responding 
Why did you post that shit 
On Facebook 

Riding it out / Zoe Berger

One party eclipses 
the next. Meanwhile 
the wars go on 
(14 this year). 
My therapist 
told me to ride 
out the emptiness 
and I guess I took that 
quite literally, my hands 
pressed into 
someone’s chest, 
rocking the black hole 
in my stomach 
to sleep — feeding it 
men that leave. 

Plucking a Leaf Out of the Creek / Cathy Ferrell

Quickly!            Catch
             my curling amber

                                        limn from the corner
                        of your eye as I a
             light from
                        branch             to                burble
                                        you’re                                       reaching

                                                                         brook this passage with me
                                                  in the

The skin dream / Alex Moni-Sauri

I wake up wet in a field of horses,
self-contained and certain of the world.
There hasn’t been a war in over thirty years
and the silos on the hill staple the grass
into big felt shapes, arranged by color 
according to the sun. Everything works 
with the logic of a clock: the huge face
of the pond is placid as a cow
reflecting clouds, and the fence circling 
the pasture is a string of paper dolls 
with arms outstretched. 
The horses stream up the tilt toward
the big red barn, past my folded body
in the wet grass, hooves pounding nearer
to me than the ends of my hair
and the wind in pursuit like a train. 
Three horses shining in the sun, strong 
and full of healthy oils, good bones fed 
by the world’s best dirt, my body still 
and uncrushed on the sparkling ground.

Frog’s Song / Michelle Frost

A frog sat on a rock 
She pondered the pond
She wondered about water 
She’d grown weary of green
Birds seemed so free frolicking in trees and soaring away into that great big sky
Ants and all insects had purpose
working hard to build soil and pollinate 
Frog wanted to sing 
to dance and swirl with abandon
yet only a ribbet and the same old hop
She was beside herself   on a rock
A friend came along just then
reminding frog of her large all-seeing eyes 
her effortless swims and graceful legs 
She felt new and important 
She thanked her friend 
She loved being a frog after all
Nobody but a frog can be a frog

My Love for You Remains/ Erika Sashedri

Within my heart, I swore to ne’er forget
your secret laugh, a sultry serenade
nor mystic echo of your silhouette
when moved to wade in midnight’s river glade.

Within my mind, I swore to always keep
the remnants of your kindness bathed in hues,
pastoral rose, bright blue and golden deep–
though missing you is colorless like dew.

And though the scythe is sharp against my heart
to harvest sorrow from me day and night
I know remains the stubble to restart
my life without your love and brightest light.

But first, I must regain my will to breathe,
the glaze of loss has brought me to my knees.

C.D. Wright Cento from “Deepstep Come Shining” / Beth Suter

Chlorophyll world. July. Great goblets of magnolialight.
Peaches and fireworks and red ants.
Now do you know where you are.
The land obtained in exchange for two blind horses.

Hear the trees.
The silver threads of Spanish moss dripping from the telephone wires.
It’s the year of the magiccicadae.
We must all escape our carapace. Come shining.¹

¹ “I see the light come shining from the west down to the east. Any day now, any day now I shall be released.” Bob Dylan

Day 28 / Poem 28

Karate / Bill Abbott

When I told my dad that I was
regularly bullied, he strongly
discouraged my fighting
(because that would reflect poorly
on his work), but he decided
a few weeks later to enroll
both of us in a local karate class
in the school gym.

Because it’s not right to fight,
but it would be worth knowing
how to defend myself,
and I was a skinny kid
in the best of circumstances.

We stayed through white belt,
meditating and going through
the workout motions,
and I stopped because I didn’t want
to memorize routines
in that awkward teen body
full of weakness.
We pretended I’d ever use any of it
when the bullies generally knew,
if they didn’t throw a punch,
they’d be able to do anything else
to make me know
I would never be more than
a target.

To be a bee  / Claudia Arevalo

And hide inside a bright pink rose
To drink it’s sweetness 
To fall asleep in a stupor
To be a lazy bee 

Party / Zoe Berger

After the rapture
Our ghosts close to the surface
I stand out in the wind with you
We leave our heads 
Open and out to dry
Tip out the tequila
So cold and clear
We clink our skulls in celebration 
(See: kissing)
I should start missing you now
For practice

This is what happens / Cathy Ferrell

when someone dies:
you forget to pay
your vehicle registration
for a year and a half.
You get pulled over.
Because this is a 
one-time thing,
you get a warning:
remember to renew.
You’d really like
to follow that advice.

Diagnosis  / Michelle Frost

There is the possibility of tragedy but you don’t yet know  it could be terrible  it could be nothing
I’m waiting across the street for my appointment
I am sipping coffee at a cafe on August 1st
with the crossword puzzle like any normal day
Out the window I watch a man in checkered shorts leaving the doctor’s office
In less than one hour that will be me
In one hour I will know what is happening to me
69 across: have a lofty goal
70 across: observe
16 across: graceful dive
55 across: worth mentioning
I can’t eat this pastry  what was I thinking
In five minutes I will cross the street
People do this every day everywhere every day
waiting    worrying    preparing for the worst
They get through this time of not knowing
69 across: Aspire
70 across: See
16 across: Swan
55 across: Notable 
Today’s puzzle seems oddly hopeful   It’s time
I put my coffee mug into the plastic bin
I make myself open the door like it’s any day
10 down: Assuages
33 down: Elms
I walk across the street into the rest of my life
A note from the poet: I’m celebrating 10 yrs cancer-free! 
I’m  walking with American Cancer Society this morning. That poem is 10 yrs old but it felt important and relevant today, wrapping up October, breast cancer awareness month.

Different ideas about Feng Shui / Alex Moni-Sauri

You tell me about the special energies of certain objects
like ancient ceramic or well-rubbed metals, and how
staleness is a natural condition in hallways and closets
especially. I think I have the right idea I say,
even the mess of cornsilks in a plastic sac
can give the room a mood, even the crowd of dishes
in the sink, when the air goes thick and the light makes 
a shape as solid as the chair. Sort of, you tell me, but it’s more
about the smart and strategic placement of things
than anything else. I see what you are saying I say, 
as dust walks its fingers teasingly across our nightstand.
How staleness becomes an old roommate, settles in. 

Dear Dorothea IX / Beth Suter

“Boy, fourteen, in eighth grade. Now unable to attend because of insufficient food and clothing.”
American River Camp, California, 1936, Dorothea Lange

Dear Dorothea,

            Were you sorry to put your boys in boarding school, to live out of your studio for the chance to photograph other stubborn mothers and their surviving children? I can taste the dust in my family stories. Did you ever get the grit out of yours?

Day 27 / Poem 27

Open Mic Night / Bill Abbott

(After Leo Kottke’s “Jack Gets Up”)

Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
And you walk on that stage and you walk on that stage
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
And you look at the room and your audience
And they listen close, and they listen close, and they listen close
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
And you shuffle through the papers
And the wild words and the wild words and the wild words
And you stand in the light where the spot is
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
And you think of the time you tried to read
At the microphone at the microphone at the microphone
In that summer of the manuscript
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
And every time you think of how
You spoke words, you spoke words, you spoke words
And you think of the time you tried to read
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
And everyone reads with the same fears
Of the lost words, of the lost words, of the lost words
And everyone reads with the same fears
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
And the emcee looks at his watch
and he urges you and he urges you and he urges you
And everyone reads with the same fears
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
And you try to speak the first words
And the eyes watch, the eyes watch, the eyes watch
And the emcee points to his watch
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
And the audience starts to wonder
What you’re doing, what you’re doing, what you’re doing
And you start to worry that you can’t read
On this scary stage on this scary stage on this scary stage
And you try to speak the first words
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
And your voice starts to crack and your breath goes
And the fear kicks and the fear kicks and the fear kicks
And you start to worry that you can’t read
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
But there’s poems that you need to speak
And the metaphors and the metaphors and the metaphors
And your voice stands to crack and your breath goes
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
And the words want you to read them
And they say please and they say please and they say please
But there’s poems that you need to speak
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage
Anytime you stand up and you walk on that stage

Intellectual love  / Claudia Arevalo

But romantic 
Open to interpretation 
Built on words
Sent back and forth 
With passion and trust 
A couple of sentences
Breathe with me 
Brain waves
Across the ocean
Find you there 
Find me here
Quantum entanglement 
That my neurons 
A gentle strong rope
That leads me
The recovecos
Of my cavernomas 
Not insensitive at all
Scars hurts and joy
Without holding hands
Without catching arms
A fearless deep dive into 
Soft malleable brains 
Grey pillows
Where our souls 
Meet and rest 

Haunting / Zoe Berger

No drugs and alcohol
I remember everything we talked about
I loved watching you shine but did you mean it?
Like maybe I needed you to prove it

After the end I walked downtown late
Waiting for something to catch me right 
Is it so wrong to want to feel good? 
To reach for something pure or actual?

Men and their apparitions…
I looked the other way and saw your ghost

Pelee Mums / Cathy Ferrell

A terracotta pot could never contain 
our cardamom and clove.

We are your equinox, blood orange 
rays out and all around. Lower 

your ear to our ochre thrum
and hear a chorus of vermillion 

secrets humming to touch. Drag 
our narrow silks 

between your own 
fingers. Think of her 

skin, the underside of her wrist
you know you will go on touching

when the backs of her hands go dry,
brittle as we will be when you forget 

to water us, when our fires river 
back out to the Florida sun.

Welcome: Calling All Kids! / Michelle Frost

“Welcome to the Nutty Tree House” Children!
Come running and bring your balloons
Please toss your hat on a branch and drop homework at Squirrel’s door   She loves Math! We have new adventures to explore
Buddy the dancing dog is your Host and his three leaping felines Sammie   Shady   & Boots
Randy Rainforest Frog will burp his favorite tune
JimmyG (G for guinea pig) wears a tiny old hat
he loves charades and acting out the clues
This is our story time menagerie!
Cupcakes are waiting and stacks of books
We read in the top of a chestnut tree
Sparrows perch to listen and interrupt and sing 
Mr. Crow brings cherries for afternoon tea
One could say it’s strange this place and how upside-down we play  but if you sit for a sunny song you might agree it is the only way
Read dance sing share laugh with a friend
Have a splendidly funtastic good day!

Loose horse / Alex Moni-Sauri

A horse is not a car. A horse will look right at you and form a verdict
about your most secret parts. This is why they are beaten with sticks.
People are attracted to the horse like they are to high peaks and raving
surf: a conquest, or a way to spite the body. A horse is an expert of
nerves. They can hear a human heart beating from four feet away,
making us feel dull and brutish by comparison. A horse can explode
in all directions, against the bearing of cart or boy, spurred by wind
or a charge from the ground or a feeling from deep in the belly. Faced
with a thing we cannot predict, we gather our armfuls of rope. A man
brings his tools to the field of tall grass, where he goes to meet himself
out in the open air, the air itself more horse than human.

my words roll out as clunky antonyms of excellence / Erika Sashedri

ordinary comes to mind and settles for a time
making sure I know my place

            your words, whose origins i can taste
            but never create

so i am unflavored and
almost invisible,
like the ghost flower
after a storm.

but i don’t give up
because you know what they say about persistence. 

Ozark Hymn / Beth Suter

                  amazing grace—

 I’m found in the drought-
cracked dirt of my ancestors

                  how sweet the sound—

grandpa’s cracked-knuckle hallelujah

                  I was blind but now—

I see the grief of not returning
his cracked bones

Day 26 / Poem 26

Back to Life / Bill Abbott

I gave way for so long,
scrabbled my way in this grave,
had to wrench my basic survival from
the hands of others, had to covet
the basic necessities in this “life,”
if you can even call it that.

I termited the wood of existence,
carved my necessities out of bone
and need, ran the rough silk of pleasure
through the joy machine,
and was found wanting.

So I quit asking, stared living
on my own terms, seeking the best way
to rend away my needs, claw by glistening fang,
until I was truly, once again,
sentient on this unforgiving, forsaken planet.

Low maintenance  / Claudia Arevalo

If it’s not exactly how 
I want it
I don’t want it at all 
Love and food 
Have to be hot
No raw onions
At all 
Drinks cold 
Beds and toilets
Books that grab me
With the first 
Few lines
Coffee cold
Oat milk 
Hugs and caresses
Kisses deep

Children / Zoe Berger

After a long day 
(read: irony)
of making 
the logo bigger,
I lie big 
in my bed,
place a small 
stuffed lamb 
on my chest. 
Children together,
we prop up 
each other’s heads.
Eyes glued 
to the ceiling,
we draw 
imaginary shapes. 

Tell It Slant / Cathy Ferrell

(a book title found poem)

Come, tell me
how you live undoll, wild,
without reservations.
[In] the liars’ club,
feral creatures tell it
slant, a whisper
in the dark, the other
way to listen.

What Poetry is Not / Michelle Frost

Poetry is not a race car but it can buckle me in that fast and suddenly everything is a blur
the world I understand blurs
my heart races and then it’s new   wow!
Forever changed
Poetry is not a river   or a stream   or a sea
but I may float along unbound under that sky waves rocking me   the waters inviting
the raft of words calming  
Just the quiet I needed
Poetry is nothing I can lift carry or drag
not a thing people can easily possess
A poem asks me to sit and listen   to feel
the weight of words how they hold my truth
coming clear   I see    right here


toasting pecans in a slurry of cinnamon sugar and butter, or petrol splashed on cloth sneakers;

the sheepishness of a freckle punctuating my left wrist, collapsing in on itself, not unlike the curling wrinkle of browning leaves shriveling on the train of potted Swedish ivy, its soil a soggy crumb like two day old french bread wolfing every rich drop of vanilla egg custard;

purifying the dish sponge, bloodletting its sudsy, sooty water until it is wrung and tender by pruning leeches; weeping pools of maple syrup on the granite counter

Karen on the third floor ashing a blunt in the teetering window box overburdened with bushy green beans and lettuce; knotty and splintered fingers stretching unyielding canvas over unforgiving wooden bones; recalling being drafted in 1964; every tug of the staple gun’s trigger – THUD! THUD! THUD!

 the yo-yo of our push and pull waists, the sapling of broccoli needled between front teeth, the chewed drawstrings on your ratty college sweatshirt— reeking of clove and casillero del Diablo, but it’s akin to unfurling under a loosened second skin;

the crack in the chasm of a naked woman’s crystalized,  praline laughter— where all my quarters, and bobby pins tumble like Alice thereafter

Reflux / Alex Moni-Sauri


Fear, Go Like This / Erika Sashedri

a cento with lines from Claudia Arevalo, Isaiah Diaz-Mays, Alex Moni-Sauri, Laura Henebry, Zoe Berger, and Michelle Frost

The city is a survivor,                                    
built by blood and bone                                                         
lit up by our longings.                                    
It is not dying                                                 
because we don’t believe in ghosts.               

Time is not shy–                                            
decades feel like centuries.                                        
Still, in different lifetimes,                            
the past lays bare                                           
the world of tangled humans.                        

We are not the land at war though.                

Pennies of blood on the wood.                      
Orange embers floating.                                
My brittle hopes alive.                       

Fear, go like this:                                           
take your enemies with you.   

Grandmother Tongue / Beth Suter

born in a blind1 cabin in a cove2       
she was raised on cornpone3 and clabber4
wore britches in hog killing weather5
was always fixin a poke salad6 for supper
she hides in my mouth, behind college
and Cali, but comes out righteous—
all god’s critters got a place in the choir!

1 Without windows

2 Small valley

3 Cornbread without sugar

4 Raw, fermented milk

5 After the first frost

6 Twice-cooked weeds

Day 25 / Poem 25

Out of Country / Bill Abbott

In the winter of my senior year,
I took a French class trip to Quebec,
experienced a different way
than all those small-city, little town,
lives I’d tried.

I wandered the malls, took tours,
tried new restaurants,
yet ended up having a meal
at McDonalds, the only place
I went where they only spoke French,
and I forgot my numbers,
standing at the counter and muttering
un, deus, trois, quatre…ah, neuf!
Neuf Poulet McCroquettes!

Another student complained,
outside in the winter,
that it was neige-ing all over her.

Fumbling awkwardly through
a culture and language
so nearby yet beyond
anything I had experienced,
I touristed my way through
a snowy few days
before returning to
the big-town mundanity
pre-college existence,
eyes slightly more open.

Don’t be afraid / Claudia Arevalo

Don’t be afraid
You won’t be invited 
To jump 
Into the abyss of my arms
There will be 
No more playing
With my imperfect
Belly button 
Or trying 
To calm
The thirst 
For connection
In my body soul 
Only the brave
To really touch
To drown in love and lust
Without any certainty 
The departing gate
Is always visible 
There’s a sense of control
The shore 
You never know (always out of reach)
My friend 
It takes two to tango
And your dancing partner
Can leave at any time
Like a Chinese man
Who thinks that you don’t know 
How to dance 
That your steps are too wide 
Your arm movements 
Too strong 
And decides 
To leave you 
In the middle of the dance floor 
No thank you
No goodbye 
In Shanghai 
I know 
The only talisman 
That can protect you
Is to learn 
To eat
And dream
Who am I telling this to
My own ears
My aching soul 
You have mastered 
The art of not loving
A long time ago

Pleasure / Zoe Berger

After the after
I exhale 
At the mirror 

Caffeine, smoke
Cake in bed
You know, treasuring myself

From one toe-wiggling pastime 
To another 
Wait while I enjoy

What The Restaurant Booth Said/Heard Right Before Closing / Cathy Ferrell

Fill my cup with        your breath      leave
your rings on         my table          leach me 
dry                      squeezed         round 
lime tart               sweet             effervesce me out 
of my own          vessel             empty me
leave me              a lone           lime to suck 
on after                lick                 greasy fingers
after                     I eat              last cold fry
don’t                  mind           being
alone                    with               your crumbs

The Glass Hotel / Michelle Frost

In The Glass Hotel the woman keeps a smile pretends to be married because it’s, well, easier
She is trying to learn how we love each other 
I bookmark the page   there’s a fuss outside 
So many doves mating in my yard
Dance of tail feathers and wings fanned
kicking up red dust   cooing bobbing lust
She feigns disinterest   He tries harder
circles back   bowing low   committed
The man who loved me least knew me best 
He showed me wrestling moves on a spring day while I planted flowers he took me down flat in the lush grass taught me a headlock
We laughed so hard we cried    it wasn’t all bad
In a dream he saw me in a house in the window
I had friends over   “you sat on the arm of the couch just like you always do”
He saw me better than I could see myself
We danced once a slow song in the kitchen before he was gone   He had nothing to give 
The sun casts its golden glow now across this lonely stretch of desert   windows gleaming
Even the rocks look soft at sundown


Smoking isn’t cool — we debate this while trying on your dead grandmother’s mink coat out in the field between your parent’s and grandfather’s house. You exhale into the wind, and I make believe the flare of your nostrils belongs to a stop motion dragon gassing up for the big blow. There isn’t a record player in the yard, but let’s pretend there is — one of those ones in a moss colored suitcase. If I could go back in time there would always be one here; straddled between the living and the dying, and we’d be dancing like middle schoolers in the gym.

I want to listen to something we can both feel; you pull Squeeze from the sleeve. It’s an unwritten rule that when we listen to “Tempted” we don’t reveal the who we wander to, but say damn, this song is good. We say I love you as a reflex, as a thing to say when there is nothing else. That’s my cue to stare off into the crimson of the sumacs strangling what’s left of the oaks.

You have to remove the mother — you told me this once after we were wasted and skinny dipping in the pool.  Our  lips chapped from salt and chlorine, snuffing the ash from your cigarette under my tongue— fuck, I’m always disappearing to a place in time we can never get back to. I snap back over to the real you, and there you are — deadpanned, trying your damndest to still look cool. And I break the lull with not an I love you, but a hey, for Halloween, let’s be Richie and Margot — you like that movie don’t you? 

Burst / Alex Moni-Sauri

At night a flashing rabbit
darts into the beam of road
beyond my throttled wheel,
the metal husk hurtling
in darkness through a wash
of details, strip mall and median
and tumbling field

all a warm blur, a nice big bath
into which a white tablet can
quickly dissolve.

From my bubble in its nest
of eternity, I see that the hands
on the wheel are not my own,
so far away and limited, so cold
and turning red.

Not in These Streets / Erika Sashedri

numinous life, ripened
within the bounds of shanty towns
all eyes trained upward
in faith, suspended
above the dichotomy of
smiles and sewage

whose will is this
that your children hunger
in filth?

do not speak his name to me

not in these streets
where spires of wealth
are the closest thing to heaven

not in the presence
of orphans

I refuse to accept
a hypothetical,
passed as fact
by lurid mouths
and plush pockets

an abomination
to be silenced with reason
and replaced

by Good

“Toward Los Angeles, California,” 1937, Dorothea Lange / Beth Suter

next time get born
in a house full of books

next time get born
on chocolate-like loam

next time get born
of an open-handed people

next time get born
in a land of enough rain

Day 24 / Poem 24

Ethics Training / Bill Abbott

Congratulations on getting this far. Now that you’ve successfully maneuvered through the maze of ethical issues as a public employee in an ethically bankrupt state, we’d like to welcome you to the real meetings. You’ll need to learn the secret handshake, fill out the forms that avow you’ll pretend you’re ethical, and pinky swear you’re above all that “ethics” nonsense that the plebes have to follow. Nepotism is just another word for nothing left to take, after all. Have some ethically questionable gifts, and recuse yourself to the breakfast bar for some governmental pork, as much as you can stack on your plate. And why not? The governor doesn’t follow the rules, nor do any of the state officials at the top. Why should you be held to a higher standard than our top leaders? You deserve it. Nobody is getting rich off of public service without some grift here and there, after all. Insider trade your way to financial security and personal wealth all you want. We protect our own, and nothing is criminal if we don’t enforce the law.

Moments of tenderness / Claudia Arevalo

He walks holding her hand 
He places one of his AirPods in her ear so that they can both listen to the same song while they ride the E train 
He smiles when he catches old me looking at them 
He doesn’t know that I’m reminded of young love 
I’m reminded of my George
We must have looked so sweet together
Just like they do 
Worlds and years apart 
The loving feeling
The knowing 
how it feels to be held 
Quiérela bien 
I want to say to him 
But I control my voice and my gaze 

Street scene / Zoe Berger

I almost 
knocked over 
a kid at the 
thinking about
dying: the hookah shop 
pushed up against 
the funeral home, 
dreams of concentration 
camps, ruined hospitals, 
the end 
now and then. 
Death the barber
shaves us 
twice a week,
to the jugular
than you think. 

Beans / Cathy Ferrell

(after Naomi Shihab Nye’s Red Brocade)

Say what you want, but
Sundays are for big family
dinners. We serve gossip 
and picadillo and beans.
You struggle to keep up 
with the chatter, half-gringa
that you are; you know
how Cubans can layer sentences 
like a sandwich. You know
they’re talking about you.
Puberty, pimples, bad grades, 
love and breakups
passed around on a platter or 
on the tip of the wooden spoon 
stirring the pot.
Abuelo plays sommelier,
watering down small tumblers of wine
for us kids. 

You forget, sometimes, and reach 
to make him a plate on a Sunday.
You look to the seat at the end
of the table. You drink 
a quiet steaming cafecito
at your own kitchen counter.

These days dinners are small.
We pour our own wine. We’ve forgotten
the language of family, and no one spills
the beans.

Let’s get out the old pressure cooker. 
The little top still chuffs, doesn’t it? We still know
how to make frijoles negros, don’t we?
Your plate is waiting.
We will pour fresh wine 
into your tumbler.

Lori’s Dream / Michelle Frost

The woman with long fingers embroiders
a silk letter of love stitched in arcs and waves
stitch by stitch a rainbow over plains
Flowing linen letter written to one almost dead
She works the thin silver needle   red thread
sews a prayer to save this one she loves
She is his sister the seamstress 
He keeps leaving into drugs into prison into depression since the war since the killing
and returning home without his same heart
She sews the fields of his boyhood
every fine stitch to recover what is lost
The flowing silk is his story retold
Her fingers embroider a river to revive him
a soaring kite to stitch him back to this life


or how the guy in an inflatable penis costume bolting across the stage of my graduation was apprehended after tripping on the lower extremities of his cumbersome costume. He gave me a free burrito a year later.

Matte lipstick; winged black eyeliner; metallica.

When the car door on my mom’s station wagon flung open in the grocery store parking lot. Pulling with my twig like arms to yank it shut. The tin of her screech as she screamed it was my fault.

The purpled bruising of my lips; mealy like apples thumped on an orchard’s ground; moving in a disheveled frenzy trying to unclothe each other before your parents’ came home; how you left me bare-assed and freezing on the chugging washing machine; casually quipping to your mom about your day.

Scott’s Tots.

The shuddering of my spine when I smell marlboro cigarettes clinging to your hands like an insecure lover wraps her mouth around you; begging to stay. Juniper and lime; tasting the same way swallowed as it does being retched.

The shaking of my thighs; their clenching; your arms tightening as you held the weight of yourself over my frame; breath leaving my throat in wrung and ragged rattles.

The pull-out method.

When he poked the asphalt smeared squirrel with a stick; raspberry jam filled cake smashed on tile; intestines like glistening pink strings; making out on the grassy hill behind the schoolyard after.

My breasts; the times where blood seeped through the denim in the crotch of my jeans; as if all the shame of my coming of age was a crime scene for everyone to see.

Freedom is something people take / Alex Moni-Sauri

The morning air is dead and my neighbor’s flag hangs 
limply from its socket. TV sounds drift from a high white
balcony: oiled voices narrating a war. Whose cities
it will flash through, whose bodies 

in the heat. Six seconds of sound
loops into a spring: blast and bang and
countries full of kids. Whose fast white dog is this,
tearing through the trees?

Next door a German shepherd throws himself against the window 
at a person walking by. I picture my neighbor beside a blue painting, 
padding down the hallway, lacing up his shoes. 

A person is struck without warning 
by the logic of numbers, the count cleaved from meaning
as it rolls across the screen. Each unit rooted lightly
in the living world, born to human parents. 
I think of all the people 

who are so much like myself, like my neighbor: each of us home
to dark pulses of clarity

that we, the numbers huge and growing,
will not comprise a simple math
of spent and traded coins, but ancient formulas
of phase change, seismic shift, and electricity.

Thousands of birds drop out of the sky
and lift again sharply at once on a strong new wind.

The Island / Erika Sashedri

i was
from your
i was
the tempest’s
lure. the
remnant of
i was
the sum of
hope, like
billowing sails
on the
wrecked by
i was
the longing
for a hundred
beating hearts
a home.

ran aground
on my shore
to find
i was: not
but you
else to go

Dear Dorothea 8 / Beth Suter

“Tranquility California. Sunday morning service. Migrants from the southwest bring their religions with them to California.” 1939, Dorothea Lange

Dear Dorothea,

            It was always thus, we bear our weary gods as we flee dying lands. What happens to a faith, a people, when the imbued-with-spirit countryside withers, gets buried in dust? And what did you mean by “their religions?” When did you lose faith?

Day 23 / Poem 23

The Writing Struggle / Bill Abbott

My cats want to help me write,
if that’s what you call it,
climbing onto my arms
while I type,
weighing me down
physically as well,
glaring at me if I shift.

They sometimes take turns,
sometimes push all at once,
trying to take my attention,
my words, my ideas,
in an effort to control
that field of battle,
ground troops in
the theater of affection.

Arrocito en bajo / Claudia Arevalo

Low heat slow cooking rice 
You and me risotto 
Next time 
Me como hasta la pega 
Raspo el fondo de la olla 
Y no te dejo ir 

Mother / Zoe Berger


Running out of breath to complain 
guess you passed down more than 
guilt and asthma you told me you loved me
from the balcony it felt like Adam and God 


I pick up whenever you call 
you do not do the same 
and yes I complain but only because 
my heart is living outside my body in you 
can you not see how terrifying 
that is hello why will you not pick up

Is it dirty? / Cathy Ferrell

Remedios Varo, Woman Leaving the Psychoanalyst, 1960

It is soft
vibration hovering
between constellation and alleyway
It is milky 
glow roll
over lip of wall and through
howl of scowl, swish
through greening folds right down
to the pinch
of severance
It is whisper-webbed 
trill of aria
It is everything
you ever held gummed
to your hand as
you tried to let go
Oh yes it is
now drop it in

  Alone Together / Michelle Frost

I saw a man alone tonight at a table in his garage smoking and staring off
a nighttime drive-by dimly lit scene
he was bald in a tank top beneath one yellow bulb he looked out at the darkness unmoving shoulders rounded from work or age or both
cheekbones collarbones jagged 
years of disappointment emanating 
two motorcycles leaned together next to him
two old best friends in it for the long haul
I was in the car that passed him by
his head turned slightly to see 
his garage light     my face briefly
we saw each other   alone
in that instant less solitary
another sundown   another car on the road
heading home at the end of a long day
winding down   our thoughts    another night


your spine becomes the 
moss cloaked 
rotten wooden ladder 
of an orphaned treehouse
in the thicket of pines 
behind my childhood home,
and I can hear my father’s booming 
voice like the cacophony of a siren’s 
wail sounding to come back down
onto the blanket 
of dried and decrepit leaves 
refusing to carry the weight 
of my willful bones – 
crack-ling one by one

Dead forum / Alex Moni-Sauri

A bobbing sea of poppy, parasol and shoe
carries us through the city of gulls.

We look for proof  
of gory games: the rustlike stain

absorbed by so much dust.
Pillars grooved like raked sand stand

and fall away in turn. Nike’s wings
etch feathered gaps across the gut

of a rising snake, and a living crow
hangs tail into the blue

clean enough to eat from.
A quilt of marble

buckles, sprouting hair at every seam.
Stories porous as a bone,

the ancient paintings honeycombed
and all the rock still lived in.

Minerva’s olive holds the hill.
Shade at her feet a sleeping dog.

Dragon Breath / Erika Sashedri

Something strange happens
on the cobblestone lane
each time I go for a walk

Fair maidens faint
peasants collapse
and knights run away in shock

I can’t figure it out
it’s just me and my pet
getting fresh air and exercise

I don’t have the plague
I’m not sick with smallpox…
And then I realize

Are they scared of my dragon?
He doesn’t bite or breathe fire
and only sometimes he’ll shriek

I finally discovered the truth
from a child whose knees
were trembling and weak:

“The hair-curling stench
of your best buddy’s breath
is enough to make stomachs swell!”

“Oh, really?” I said.
“I had no idea!
I was born with no sense of smell.”

Cover Crop Prayer / Beth Suter

turn the breath of clover
into chocolate-cake soil

bring the sky underground,
roots like lightning rods—

clover honey, clover salad,
clover milk—

hold the earth close,
fallow the field of yourself—

Day 22 / Poem 22

Feral / Bill Abbott

Wild summers of Loretto childhood,
roaming free with John,
flying kites and
riding bikes and
exploring houses
as they were being built.

To the drug store
for comics and,
in rare moments of feeling rich,
a Coke with a dash of cherry flavor.

Nobody checked on us,
nobody worried,
nobody cared. We wandered
those streets and fields
because home was only a place
where you kept your stuff,
where you lay your head
when you weren’t sleeping over.

Hot asphalt and kickball in
flip flops in the Southern edge,
practically Alabama,
Star Wars figures and Legos
and Micronauts and
anything science fiction
that caught our eye.
We were eight-year-old
figuring it all out on our own.

Vegan girls  / Claudia Arevalo

When we met for lunch
She reached out
In one spontaneous move
And touched my cheek
When she went inside 
To pick up the food 
Her partner 
Reached inside the tear 
In my jeans 
And distractedly 
Caressed my leg 
With her warm hand 
Now it’s just the cold breeze
That I feel 
My pants 

Portal / Zoe Berger

After Ocean Vuong

You heard of terror 
management theory? 
Telling yourself God 
because, well, what else. 

They say the path 
appears as you walk it. 
The past a spiral, 
each day a ring. 

Love, at its best, 
repeats itself. 
I can get used to anything 
that goes in circles. 

Gratitude / Cathy Ferrell

Every day
I pick up
crusty socks
and sandy shoes
lift them between
two pinched fingers
to the basket
by the door or
straight into the wash
where I will swirl
blue soap and
press start, and
acknowledge the rush
of water, and acknowledge
other small shoes, other small socks
crusty with not-sweat, not-sand, and
the empty hands that reach for them.


Before That / Michelle Frost

I have not always been this cautious owl   this cocky old crow
Before that I was a sparrow who loved books and the branches hidden in their pages
Before that I was a horse who could fly through dreams
Before that I was a hitchhiker in Germany  France  Switzerland resting on grassy hillsides  cowbells clanging    reading Grapes of Wrath
Before that I was a flamingo holding up picture books at story time   loving each little face
Before that I was a Girl Scout shoveling snow in South Dakota for our neighbors the Boriches
Before that I was a fox who ran away into the forest to escape
Before that I drove tractor for the men who chucked hay bales at the wagon   my granddad uncles and cousins who understood hard work
Before that I was a baby pig    clean and pink frolicking in yellow straw beneath the heat lamp
Before that I was a spider named Charlotte who wrote messages in a web in the barn
Before that I was a baby girl who loved the soft fur of our cat Smokey
Before that I was a tiny bean growing in the belly of my teenage mom until she could not hide it any longer and the secret was out
Before that I was a star twinkling a soft flutter of light in the night sky
Before that I was a poet looking to be born
Before that I was the heart swell with no words only a glow   a pulse   a soft ray like sunlight


we will make today
a good one.
kick our shoes off 
into the stratosphere —
it will rain our boots somewhere
across the Atlantic.
lug the sleeping bags
into my hatchback, and when you ask
where are we going
I tell you, fast.
there is no time, and
if you love me you would understand,
we can’t spare the minutes watering
the houseplants
no matter how exotic. no time
to triple check the locks, to
make sure the coffee pot is off. 
forget the damn weather! 
they are only reading patterns,
and I can think of evenings  
spent worse
than our bodies huddled closer
than the stitches in your 
sweater. under
the dark swell of clouds, I 
can think of worse things
to be doing. imagine we never left
and we are slouching
spines giving under the brokenness 
of our sofa. bent bodies 
curdling in the blue glow of 
the TV, our breath not fogging
the windows, not hot on
each other’s face. imagine we
fall asleep there, and 
never wake.

Passenger / Alex Moni-Sauri

The radio cut and the car filled with air. The sound went out and at first I tried
to get it back, but silence decides on silence. The decision made a window. What 
slipped into the car just then? Ossified pyramids, storybook kings, gasoline. Dead 
language, fields of rice, skies of cicadas, atom bombs. Power lines cracking above
our heads, lava in the core of the earth rising. Housing blocs, prison camps, cafeteria 
smell. Razor wire fences, gumball machines, plastic army men. Airport security lines 
and a field of white-eyed horses. Wolves outside the tent, before Jesus. Sharpening 
knives, planning by fire. An iceberg razes my car through a wilderness of trees
to make the road. Lights flash by and are gone, before their color can reach
my watering, widening eye. 

The Monster / Erika Sashedri

wretched is the man
who sings
for the glory of his god
yet spares no melody
for his mother
he is the monster
from whom
to hide all children

Child Labor Laws Are Under Attack in States Across the Country / Beth Suter

Economic Policy Institute Report by Jennifer Sherer and Nina Mast, March 14, 2023

children cleaning       

razor-sharp saws

on slaughterhouse     kill floors

children losing                       

fingers in                      sawmills                     

children tending          taprooms

till closing time

children stamping

metal sheets for           machine shops

children digging          trenches        

Day 21 / Poem 21

Broken Umbrella / Bill Abbott

We met for dinner,
sought each other out,
ended up sharing an umbrella
and starting a relationship
that smoldered.
I cracked myself open, let you in,
hid nothing, took that risk
because I believed you were worth it.
Then you broke it off,
gave up, walked away,
left me here, alone with
a broken umbrella of a heart
in this downpour.

My lips still yearn for your kiss,
my skin, your touch.
I burned for you, and now
I’m left with the marks,
the tender spots, the winces
when I think of what I thought
we were building,
where I believed we had
a future together, where I finally
got to quit being alone,
where I finally had a lover.

You reprioritized, figured out your
schedule without me in it, wrote me out
of your life. Broke up with me by text
in the middle of the night, while I slept,
leaving me on the morning of a funeral
with two reasons to grieve.

So tell me a lie, my dear.
Tell me you miss me.

Do they need to know  / Claudia Arevalo

That I rubbed your body with lotion 
Made you an endless number of bowls
Of hot wheat with tons of butter and sugar
That you rubbed my feet
And held me whenever your shoulder
Was not hurting 
Too much
That we stayed up until 2:00
That you read your work to me 
And I fell asleep to the sound of 
Your words
Your voice 
That you brought me flowers thrice 
And built my daughter a bed
That you fought constantly with my cat
But let him stay 
That you cooked
And cleaned
Trying to be a good husband 
And that you loved me 
As much as you could 
As much as your body allowed 
I look at myself naked in the bathroom mirror 
I remember taking pictures of you in the shower 
I remember you coming inside 
When I was taking a shower 
Staring at me for a while 
And then calling me upstairs 
For a cuddle 
A cuddle was all I asked for when I met you 
And you gave me everything 
And then died 

Soup / Zoe Berger

Life teems around us
and still everything 
is embarrassing. 
At dinner, 
I say I like your shirt 
instead of Stay. 
I want to beg. 
But I bleed in place, 
boil over, my leaky heart 
aimed at you.

a plum is a promise / Cathy Ferrell


Politics / Michelle Frost

A congress of cooing doves calls my attention to the window

I have been reading GK Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

Page 1 begins with poets arguing in 1908

One Anarchist & one for Order arguing in flowery lavish English

They lash out respectfully long before F-bombs

I watch four doves around the bath the largest of them is puffed up round

She is taking jabs at each and wants them gone

A slender young bird remains with her light silver crown and silver tips on her tail The two seem to glare for minutes

Their consternation disguised by feathers

One can politely decline a fool   or jest & jab with good manners

Even the desert storm blows in gently this morning with cooing and wind chimes the wild swaying of palm fronds high above and dried bits rustling along the gravel road

Opinions will ever fuel debates  

We are better heard with a smile and a wink


1.)   slurping cold noodles floundering in a deluge of soy sauce with my bare feet on the cold tile, imagining how I want to wear your arms like a shawl around my shoulders —

2.)   this fantasy piles on. now we have an A-frame in the woods! now you are layering your special lasagna recipe in the dish!

3.)   sometimes you need air, sometimes you need to be on county road with no one else, but you, the open window, and Joni Mitchell to remind you what is real and what is not. taking

4.)   a solitary moment to watch the settling of the sun blush her pinks.  

5.)   convince myself I can feel human by coaxing it out like a moan from the throat of my cunt and to not wish these fingers belong to you

Walking home with groceries / Alex Moni-Sauri

The rain puts down its heavy hair, cold air holding both my hands. 
Wind ushers me like a toddler past the brown house
sinking into grass, the little glass face pitched up to the sky, looking
for birds. Two clothesline poles stretch the air between them  
like a ghost. I wonder where you’ll be today–
in the still dim room, opening all your buried drawers? In your thick
wool coat, brushed and hanging in the closet? Deerlike thoughts
stamp trails through mud, pressing little lines into my face and brain.
Air so wet all the wood grows fur. You cast yourself a lidded jar,
ceramic sailboat on a shelf. A block past our house I see the water
sloshing in a gallon jug, then the plastic handle, then the hand around it.

Eating the Lies / Erika Sashedri

I prefer to receive your deceit
on a platter
nestled beside my sunny side-ups.
You can spoon-feed me lies
if you’d like—
they slide right down the gullet,
no questions asked.

Though often I wonder
why I feel ill after eating
it surely can’t be
what you give me.

The symptoms? Of course.
They go something like this:
Outbursts of anger
Profuse salivation
Pidgin flowing from maws,
Delirium twitches
Scandalous acts
and illicit free-for-alls

I know!
I can hardly believe it myself
It must be something
in the water
From now on:
I shall only drink beer

Now excuse me while
I tell everyone
that you invented

Dear Dorothea VII / Beth Suter

Dynamiting Stump: Farmer preparing to blow tamarack stump. It will take fourteen sticks of dynamite. Bonner County, Idaho, 1939, Dorothea Lange

Dear Dorothea

            Did you stay to witness the dissolution of roots? All that dirt exploding into dry air, blanketing the downwind, using tools of war to make our forests look like Flanders Fields. We grow dust and harvest dust still.

Day 20 / Poem 20

Commission / Bill Abbott

And the muse says, “Write me a poem, and
make it a love poem, and let’s see. Make
it a sonnet. And include fairies and
unicorns. No, wait. Better idea, write
a love poem comparing your feelings
for your lover to Frodo and the ring.
Offer this poem as a Tolkein of
your affection. Invent a language to
show your devotion. Explain to her that
your love for her runs from Barad-dur to 
the Shire, that your sincere desire to be
near her is the most precious. No, wait, I’ve
changed my mind. Do all of that, but make it
a haiku.” You don’t argue with the muse.

A long legged spider   / Claudia Arevalo

Climbs down to the level
Of Obsession 
And Summit
I gently touch it
With a cold damp finger
She climbs up 
And disappears 

Echo / Zoe Berger

In an effort to ensure safety
I watch people going 
Between subway cars 
Though really what would I do

Seeking preservation
I catch up with old friends
Ask them about their families
Attempt a new catalogue

I am obsessed with originality
Think I’m resisting reproduction!
But eyeing a flock of birds I am reminded 
Even God had a son

It was a Wednesday/ Cathy Ferrell

     in my dream
I saw airplanes gliding west-bound on highway 50
one after another in a straight line on the road
and I stared but you kept driving

it was morning and we went east
we ended up in the Target parking lot

Why, I asked
Why not, you answered
with the door wide open

Lovers of Poems / Michelle Frost

The stacks of books are a telltale sign
stories and poems piled high
a need to read    to find the bridge
from me to you   a familiar space
or not familiar but heartfelt   new
A  poet   must  share  being  alive 
Nearly breakable   learning to survive
the darkness of despair
the illuminating relief 
We suffer alike   shared raft   deep sea
We shine like fire when a poem sets us free


in Gaza there are mothers with grief mangling their faces, clutching still babies to their breasts —weeping over the burial of rubble. dirt muddying with blood. holding the small, soot caked hands of countless little ones.

in Illinois a six-year-old Palestinian American boy is stabbed 26 times. his mother, twelve. she cannot go to his funeral and mourns from her hospital room.

motherhood frightens me — to be held by a love so consuming it roots itself like the cordyceps blooming through the exoskeleton of an ant — how a child is not a part of you, but all of you; brought into this world under the cover of your body, and how our bodies, fail and burn.

to keep you safe, I need a bomb shelter for a body. 

Roman estate / Alex Moni-Sauri

Who has trained the endless grass to live
inside a marble square? Each blade raised

to the same set height, still as soldiers,
cool against the christening sun.

The sidewalk sweats with people
and moves us in a line. Nowhere
without a key

to sit. Fat metal bars split the image 
into strips. I press my face into a gap

to see the bust of someone, 
but the coin-dark back is turned from me

and the clean head gazes on a huge locked door. 
The grass strains invisibly from its borders
for something to touch.

Eco Haiku / Beth Suter

note on temple door:
“Fearlessness in Everyday
Life” workshop canceled     


bare brown winter branch
a nuthatch hunts upside down—
finding sustenance


spring storm almond tree
drought-stricken limbs broken off
covered in blossoms

Day 19 / Poem 19

Extracurricular / Bill Abbott

Dad wanted me to play baseball,
so I was averagely bad
on the worst team of the
little league
for two years before I gave up.

I tried out for soccer, but
my undiagnosed asthma
left me struggling on the field
before resigning myself
and giving up.

I was halfway paralyzed
at the thought of memorizing lines,
so I barely put in effort for drama club,
taking a two-line role in a school play
and wanting only non-speaking roles
in the church Christmas plays.

Karate was one belt.
Basketball and the asthma
did not get along.
Football did not interest me.

When I was introduced to band,
I showed some aptitude,
gravitated to percussion,
and felt anxious on the xylophones.

When the letter came home
saying it was time to buy an instrument,
mom asked if I was serious about
staying in band, or if I was
just going to quit like I quit everything else.

In the face of her newest shaming,
knowing I was never going to be
good enough to try,
I met her expectations.

Disclaimer   / Claudia Arevalo

You don’t have to come with a disclaimer. Just because you open your wounds doesn’t mean that you have to keep on explaining yourself over and over again. Justifying your gestures, the way you flirt, the way you touch. Just because he hit you doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you. And the fact that you love him no matter what doesn’t mean that you don’t love yourself. What if you have a twisted silly sense of humor. What if you’re rough when you caress your kids, your lovers, your pets? When does this end? The feeling of not being right, not being enough? What is worse, opening your mouth and trying to explain again in a language no man seems to understand? Or just keeping it all in and just saying the usual nothing’s wrong or everything is alright? Words, my strength my gift my curse… my beauty and now a weight I have to carry… my ex husband’s new Claudia is so mad after a fight that she has to take it out on our 15 year daughter by pouring dishwasher soap in her milk… bleach on her contact solution, water inside her laptop…so upset that he has to say I love you while squeezing her arm until it hurts so worried that he has to take it out on you by refusing to accept you as you are, the way you talk, the words you say and the fact that you don’t fit by any measure the cast that he has built for you in his mind, kindness peace stability come on… what were you thinking what were you dreaming about… naive lost deluded and once again in the pit of the stomach the center of this mess the realization that you have not arrived that you’re not on a safe shore you know you sit there and listen you see yourself listening you truly enjoy the story he has written the way he acts it out but at the same time a part of you is remembering how warm it felt to come back from a day at the beach to take a long shower and get rid of the sand, to put your kid to bed the whole time anticipating his touch, his smell all the tangled steps of a perfect dance performed night after night for years why did you stay? Because you were addicted he was your drug and being exhausted after making love is so much better than being utterly drained from trying to find the right words to say. 

Advice / Zoe Berger

  • Buy a book as a bandaid

  • Remember the sun keeps its distance for a reason

  • Have faith in angels or you’ll never see one

  • Finally absolve your sins

  • Take your enemies with you

Reflux / Cathy Ferrell

tummy-ache girl’s
gut speaks for her

caustic whispers up trachea, 
burning louder at larynx to
full glottal     stop

If you don’t have anything nice to say then 
don’t say anything at all

trigger gag 
choke it back down

Such a quiet good/nice/sweet girl 

Keeping the peace tastes like
strawberries and chalk

Uncertainty   / Michelle Frost

A flock of flightless ducklings
tiny fluff balls tipping into water
a pond of uncertainty
they bob and tip and float 
learning to remain upright
in waves   in wind   toppling
into debris and each other
swiftly carried along in the current
yellow ducklings just beginning
bobbing and cheeping together
fluffy yellow murmuration
not a clue where they will be next
they keep afloat for the wavy ride


every time someone says act your age; I want to pull one eyelid down and stick my tongue out — sing-scream all the lyrics to Barbie Girl; yank my pants and moon them right then and there!  the secret of life is that there is no switch you can flip to finally understand it all.  the secret of life is your body gets more broken and, if you’re lucky, your mind does not. I met a ninety-two year old grandma with thin, rocket orange curls cropped close to her head smoking a cigarette while her eighty-one year old husband tended to their roses; she told me the secret to life is do what you want as fabulous as you can. if you want to wear the hot pink feather boa — throw it over your shoulder and sashay the frozen food runway at the grocer. if you want to tattoo your areoles into tan hearts, or experiment with botox, or get the septum piercing at forty-two — then do it.  this life will kill you. will masticate you like a mouth draining orange wedges of juice. you won’t leave this earth alive. 

Let’s do it later / Alex Moni-Sauri

You said of smelling flowers
in the yard. First in a murmur
when the air carried sun and cherry
blossoms through the open window
into our undone bed, then as the grass
lay down and window shut, in

The Wrinkles of Insomnia / Erika Sashedri

I am smoothing
the wrinkles of insomnia with
heat through my spine,

I sit with a black square
of thoughts, barely there
and imagine
failed guard dogs by the front door—
flanking Jack Kerouac splayed on
slick tile
clinking a glass of bourbon
in thin air, the sound makes

my ears ring with anything
but lullabies, a soundtrack
to the
pre-sleep tumble thought
floating through this mind’s eye
the pinball machine takes over
            ding ding-a-ding ding ding

I just want to sleep
and not have to rely on fuzzy slippers
shuffling behind my eyelids
to kick my ass into dreamland

I’d rather count sheep
in the front pasture

But there are only five, so
surely not enough to
be effective


Namesake / Beth Suter

dark-headed grandma
            bobs when she sings

a fast-rasp voice 
            from a shy throat

she flits streamside
            at the edge of open 

grazing on possum grapes
            and gooseberries

 setting on a low branch
            she mimics the birds

that call her name
            fee-bee, fee-bee

Day 18 / Poem 18

Caring for Others / Bill Abbott

In the middle of winter,
during an ice storm,
snow already on the ground,
dad asked teen me to join him
in the late afternoon
to deliver Meals on Wheels
to the elderly around
Mountain City,
just in case something happened.

Dad drove us slowly,
picked up the foil dishes,
and we set out in that Datsun
to make sure everyone ate.

Dad turned on the radio,
local station for the weather,
and I first heard Ray Stevens
sing “The Streak” on those
frozen roads, a rare moment of
laughing with dad
when he let his guard down.

We suffered no problems,
creeping across the ice in the winter dark,
bundled up under the streetlights
in a car full of cooked food,
caring for others
because it was the right thing to do.

It feels like an octopus   / Claudia Arevalo

Trying to fit one of its tentacles 
Inside my cabinet drawer

Then slowly I turn into another octopus
And we wrap our tentacles around each other

I’m fully in the moment 
And the tentacle inside of me 
Stops feeling foreign 

It becomes an internal caress 
The connection between our bodies 
Is deep 

Even after it releases its ink 
We stay tangled up 
There’s no rush 
It holds my head 
It is not impatient 
It is not dying 
To detach its limbs
from my tired satisfied limbs 

For a while 
There’s pure bliss 
It’s a blue green kind of bliss 

Practice / Zoe Berger

In the pursuit 
of excellence, 
I smile 
at the dentist, 
for fall, move 
with my vices, 
no pulling 
at the leash 
here. I’ll 
butter your toast 
first & I’ll even 
pray. Tonight 
I’ll write down 
all these ways 
we ask to be good
without words. 


Wake-Up Call / Cathy Ferrell

I used to think
I was the only one
who said pspsps to the cat
but the bumper sticker on the fender
in front of me said
Tell your cat I said pspsps

So I guess
I’m not special anymore

Sexy Groceries  / Michelle Frost

Trader Joe’s grocery guy 
you call my name and wink
we’ve done this many times
you’re checking me out
tall slim stocks
leafy greens
cherry tomatoes
buttermilk biscuits
Peach melba sorbet
you’re bagging my goods
eyeing me while you handle things
neatly stacking cans   eggs up top
hands busy in my eco-friendly reusable bag when I compliment your method
you blush and nearly smile
your eyes are all business
you and your wrist protector cuff
brown hair in waves and curls
luxuriant sea of waving hair
I want to be marooned on a raft there
far from this line of faces that watch us
your witty banter reels me in
I swipe my card through your machine
you push the buttons that let me proceed
I sign my name and take from you
one long long receipt that you fold
and fold carefully like a silk stocking
from your hand to mine
we have finished transacting
your farewell smile and those dark
playful eyes young and wise
wishing me to have a very
very very Good day
I smile Thank You I certainly have


my water bottle won’t stop gawking at me from the edge of the coffee table. itching for me to pick her, choose her — instead, I lick 

the crepe paper of my drying lips, 
I swallow to coat my throat with spit;
sink down in the cushion of the couch; from this angle 

my belly is as big as the Grand Canyon without a donkey to traverse it. my belly as big as Buddha’s when I sit, and 

my arms as stubby as a Tyrannosaurus. my arms as stubby as a worm if a worm were to have any arms 

they would be so short, I swear it, 
could never reach a damned thing; entirely useless for a worm

my water bottle snaps —   
If you’re thirsty why don’t you drink? 

 all you have to do is reach. 

Meal for two / Alex Moni-Sauri

My dog moves in sun 
between firs, feet 
anonymous and light. 
Hours come and clean me  
on a hard red pan

until the grease of expression
is lifted from my face. The meaning 
eases. Any bulb above my head
is useless in the sun.

    A question, hiccup, rises
– what comes next –
and is caught in generous silk, 
coming to rest among the dew
and other softly beating pearls. 

See me? The clutched brown spider
holding still. A field of gauzy little pearls.

Rejection / Erika Sashedri

I wait for it.

Your eyes on my
intimate thoughts,
fingers picking at  
bits of soul
interwoven with
threads of secrecy

I am laid bare
for the word to see,
an open book
in the literal sense.

the answer is still no. 

What’s Left of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman 2023 / Beth Suter

(an erasure poem for the planet)

urge and urge and urge, always the procreant urge

the beautiful uncut hair of graves

the cat on the housesill, the chickadee

I see in them and myself the same old law

some vast and ruined city

New York and New Orleans

ever the eaters and drinkers

ever that breath of itches and thirsts

Day 17 / Poem 17

Autumn in Ohio / Bill Abbott

Cool October autumn morning,
driving my son to his mom’s
to put him on the bus
with the headlights showing the way
through the very occasional raindrops.

A rare house has left the blow-up
Halloween decorations on overnight.
All-orange Christmas lights
at another.
Leaves mostly unturned,
a few scattered on wet roads.

A feeling of promise
before the frosts begin,
before the heavier coats,
the hot chocolate,
the bitter cold
that happens all too soon.

And so I became your bride   / Claudia Arevalo

On a Tuesday morning 
A rainy morning 
I got a mani pedi
Went to Beacon’s closet
Found an Open Ceremony pantsuit
That looked like a wedding dress
Bought a red lipstick at Credo
Came home and took a shower
Tied my hair in a knot 
And took some pictures in our bathroom 
You were upstairs 
Ironing your suit
Your friends came over
They brought everything 
Denise named like my dead aunt
Made me a beautiful bouquet 
Made you a boutonnière
You were so happy with it 
You showed it off 
We said our vows 
I read a poem 
You said 
I was born when I met you 
Talked about each and every one of our friends 
We exchanged rings 
We kissed
And then 
Drank wine 
And ate Chinese 

that girl is so peculiar / Cathy Ferrell

Give me all
your odd
your strange
your hard to read
your rapid-fire texts
your winky-eyed eloquence
your delayed verbal responses
your I talk to myself sometimes
your firing neural constellations
your high functioning something
your kitschy kitchen dance mobs
your groovy living room raves
your social gathering horror
your let’s be alone together
your weird wild silence
your wondering crave
your B-movie gore
your secret smile
your out there
you are

Give me
all of this I said 
to the mirror 
on the wall

Gardening  / Michelle Frost

I sit with my iced coffee in shade
a perfectly warm summer afternoon 
Life in the garden is hard work
Stubborn weeds   roots holding fast
No garden is without pests 
Rich soil and sunlight encourage all things
Sprout!  Grow!  even You unwanted weeds!
I rinse the dirt off and jump in the pool
Swimming laps is how I unfurl 
and my mind’s garden unfurls too
words   patterns   rhyme schemes
new ideas sprouting   lap by lap
Seeds of poems   planted in rows
Life in the garden is peaceful delight 


You call me a heat conjurer.
Bending drizzle into steam — lifting off the asphalt like smoke. Scorching from palm to knuckle. Swallowing fire flowers to spit 16-bit flames at your head before you retreat into your shell. 

I get so angry,  
and you’re halving cherry tomatoes in the kitchen; sliding their slick bodies from blade to bowl. Spritzing with a goddamn lemon,

and I am erupting;
like the sputtering percolator you forgot. Melting the plastic tupper lid. Here I am spraying hot coffee all over the floor. Soaking the tea towels we bought in Europe for more euros then they’re worth. 

When you saw them 
in the souvenir shop they were pretty and new; their white brought out their blue. I thought about the ones we have back at home — stained orange, machine faded, and I knew. 

we would ruin these too. 

Future planning / Alex Moni-Sauri

A day blew through and left me
flat against the floor. This world with teeth.
My body plated like a steak.

Hay bales spread across the fields
like they grew there, permanent as cows.
The future seems certain

as the fit of a bolt into a lock.
I’ll be reborn as an oil painting, as a grocery list,
devout. Dunk me in a cold glass of water 
and see. Full tank of gas. A drawer
full of pencil shavings, special rocks,
candy wrappers, tax forms.

The head of a shark
is crammed with senses, teeth endlessly
replaced. Reborn as a tooth,

endlessly. People with waterfront property
only own what the water doesn’t

Life in E-Flat Major / Erika Sashedri

my hands ache,
by the infinite symphony
of notes caressed in piano
and pounded in forte
since childhood

this opus of existence
required discomforts,
as stiff joints
and throbbing wrists
remind me

yet anyone who dwells
within the cadence of aria
knows there is no sacrifice
in this story

even when born
from the agony of want
and paid for later
with pain,

there is no life without song

The Trapper’s Daughter / Beth Suter

The Trapper’s Daughter

finds her way by game trails,
carries a poke of worries

like a flour sack of snakes
that writhe against her back—

a coonhound brings sulled
possums in his soft mouth—

grandma wields the shotgun
in a night too thick for stars

Day 16 / Poem 16

Random Advice: Please Take One / Bill Abbott

Dervish dance your way around the fountain,
give yourself away to strangers at the fairway,
sing a song of fivepence,
think long about the impermanence of permanent markers.

Think your way through feelings,
stand four-square in the middle of the storm,
shake off your troubles through the
pepper grinder of love.

Dance as if nobody is listening;
yell as if nobody is watching.
Daydream in the middle of the night.
Take notes of every aggrieved rightness.

In case of water, break glass.
In case of drought, just add water.
In the last episode of the season,
make sure you’re not actually the villain
of your own story.

After all, before none, make sure your denouement
is not actually the end.
Write yourself into the sequel
like the royalty of the road you are,
like you have always been.

I’m not a violent person   / Claudia Arevalo

But I feel like going downstairs and kicking the person who is hitting those drums at 3:57 a.m. on a Monday morning with those drumsticks on the head, even the face… don’t blame me

 I’m exhausted and I just watched an episode of GOT last night 

while trying not to touch the tall bearded man who eats like a carefree toddler and licks his fingers after devouring a piece of dark cherry pie sitting next to me the pent up longing for a kiss, a squeeze, a cuddle is getting to me while I try sleeping on top of my pillow so I don’t feel the metal coils of an old mattress dig into my legs… I’m not comfortable, not happy… oh how I want to hurt this faceless drummer who has just added the noise of a synthesizer? Is that even the right word? Who knows I’m writing this at 4:04… 

Tramp / Zoe Berger

I lost all my weed in a series of small fires. I’m sorry for being late again. I didn’t know I had to be on time every single time. I’ll give you the night back but first can you tell me the way to Hope Road? I’ll write it down to see if it’s true. You see, I want to be known. I’m not just a heart with legs.

Chiroptera / Cathy Ferrell

At dusk, we lie belly-up on the trampoline 
in the backyard, rest on its taut dark mesh.
We watch for darting swoops.

Baby bats are called pups or bittens.
The young feed from their mothers’ bodies.
Collectively, they are a colony, a camp, a cloud.
To fly, they spread their hand-wings wide, 
catch the air in a net of membranes.

I have fed mouths from my body

been bitten by
tiny fangs seeking
phantom needles still prick

at the expression of hunger

in the cooling night
I fold both bittens into my span
we look at the world hanging upside down
an anomaly more agile than anything
with feathers


Autumn Fest at the Tree Nursery  / Michelle Frost

Above the plants a draping shade cloth undulates in the autumn breeze
October swirls past the wagons heaped 
high with pumpkins and gourds
giant warty orange faces 
small round smooth faces
October stirs the green palm fronds
sways vines hanging long near the fountain
where customers visit in Spanish
The water trickling and the Spanish like music mingling with the breeze in leafy branches   A child laughs at the baby chickens who run after their mother into the ferns
Customers stroll with lattes into the trees
Rows upon rows of citrus trees   and palms
Agave and aloe   geraniums and petunias
A bustling Saturday at the tree nursery
Customers chat with workers in the shade
The buzz of holidays begins this way
Strolling in trees and purchasing flowers
Sharing a cool and festive afternoon together

AUGUST ‘97 / Laura Henebry

puffs, leather
seats, thighs sticking;
ash singeing roof upholstery;
with dad; 
betting on ponies—
which one, circle it
alone on   
a barstool with 
grenadine lips; potato chips
chestnut horses
dash, and maybe 
this time we will

Goodbye to me / Alex Moni-Sauri

           after Hadrian’s last words

I spread my thoughts around me now
like all the shells I can’t take home.
Pound them into sand for me, finer
than a flea comb’s teeth, fine enough
to measure time within a glass.

You go looping through it all: my little stretch
of fishing line and all your shining beads.
The heaving ocean and its squawking string

of pearls. I know how a rope feels when you grip it
versus when it’s slipping through. Fleeting, slippery
you! Warm brown egg inside a towel, marble in a ball
of clay. My tremor, step out of shadow 

and be warmed. Go find the people
gripping raincoats, stepping on and off the bus 
with hardened eyes and leaky hearts. I am already
in love. My boots let in the water. I’m expanding 

like a nice dough, like the universe, a cloud. 
Sun has found my arm again. Low pink blossoms 
by the cars. 

A wind is running at me on six strong legs. How the rain fell 
down! How a little spray of dandelion shot up
and then spread.

This is Not a Poem About Birds / Erika Sashedri

One literary journal asked
submitters to avoid sending poetry
on the subject of birds.

Which got me thinking
about barn owls and wood ducks.
Shoe-billed storks and godwits.
Hornbills and tanagers and auks.
Harpy eagles and Tibetan vultures.

Which got me thinking about
Tibetan sky burials and the time my mom
said she didn’t want to be cremated or buried.
She just wants us to lay her to rest on a hill
and let the buzzards have her.  

I’m not sure I’m okay with that. 

Ozark Truckin’ II / Beth Suter

between Hickory Stump Hollow and Turkey Knob
rain-blind, a real toad strangler, cloud-light
saying grace over crackers and jam
Boone County Line, mayapple-light
more no-see-ums than air
too wet to plow, too thick to drink
This Thanksgiving Serve Wild Turkey Before Dinner
lost in a blind cove, forty miles to Frogville, moss-light
Whole Hog Cafe, we ate everything but the squeal
sweet rye, sweet Timothy went blind from bad moonshine
Cottonrock Bluff, chalk-light
snapping turtle roadkill, stew ‘em for days, still come out rubber
the Ark of Praise in Broken Arrow
Give em the Bird: Wild Turkey for Dad

Day 15 / Poem 15

Eugene / Bill Abbott

In my early years,
I had an Uncle Eugene,
a great uncle, brother to
my father’s mom,
always so slick
for a country boy,
stacking the deck
in every card game,
with a reputation for drink,
with a hand out for another loan
he’d never repay.
He was a fascinating, if brief,
look at a world I’d never seen.

After my grandparents said
he should never come around anymore,
when they heard  something outside,
my grandfather
got his shotgun.

Lollipop   / Claudia Arevalo

Who would have thought that licking a watermelon lollipop on the train would be so provocative…

I was distracted licking and thinking but then I felt some eyes on me… different men ages, colors were looking at me like hungry beasts like  thirsty animals and then I realized the licking and the lollipop had the same effect as a miniskirt or a tight shirt… or even worse… and then I didn’t know if I should keep it inside my mouth, if taking it out and then putting it back was bad… if licking my lips after sucking was worse…

After the party / Zoe Berger

As I am consistency convinced
If it can be fixed 
It’s not a mistake
Just more work to do

Which is not the thing you want to hear 
Hungover to hell
Head not so much a head
As a cloud

But if each night you are born
If despite the drink you cry
Then you better
Belly up

Songs of an Absent Father  / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

He wrote the same 
melody for our mothers 
with different pens.
Daddy was a rolling stone 
orchestrating symphonies as he strolled.

Paths can get cold and dim 
when walking alone. The pain 
trapped behind these walls
can be heard from miles 
away. Somehow our mothers 
still worked wonders 

when it came to molding men. 
Mine a Puerto Rican Goddess, 
yours a Black Queen from the Bronx, 
he tried killing them softly as the song’s 
notes expanded the distance between us. 

Our first collaboration wrecked nerves, 
what if this feature doesn’t work? 
Our identical grins shattered anxieties 
as we tore old pages apart, 
clearing way for brand new notes.

Behold the brazen brothers 
rewriting the lyrics 
to their absent father’s beat.

for you / Cathy Ferrell

You barked
at the snarling dog
when we were kids,
even though I was older.

I’m not so brave, but for you
I’d be the mud
on the hem of 
Elizabeth’s petticoat, 
dripping a trail in the halls 
of Netherfield to show you 
the way back out.

Lady of Sleepy Hollow / Michelle Frost

I met a woman at work this week she lives on Sleepy Hollow Lane her stories wove into each other one to the next like water that is too brisk to follow but she invited me over and dug in her purse for a pen she wrote it all down in perfect curling cursive the directions to call and to come see her log cabin here in town I thought she might kiss me when she leaned in to wink right in my face her long denim dress blowing in the desert wind beside the red pottery in cloudy sunlight the moment stretched long like a fairytale with her magical white hair in wind then I googled the address to learn that I could walk to her cabin it’s less than a mile from my home so I drove by twice it looked magical like her a woodsy cabin charming weathered fence handmade tiles the faded red porch tucked under the old mesquite tree at the end of the gravel road but we never met again 

I ONLY PICK TRUTH / Laura Henebry

when we play truth or dare. you think it’s boring — all soft ball talk, no dirt sliding action. 

ask me about the secrets I have kept from my parents, from you. ask me what I would say if you were to get down on one knee. ask me about  when I last cried a thick snot-laden sob what it was really about. ask about what celebrity I am undressing in my dreams. my inappropriate intrusive thoughts when I am pushing 90 on the highway as if I am testing out the quick eject from life. ask what I miss most about the people I once loved. ask how many times a day I think about one of the dogs dying a terrible death, I think about me dying an equally terrible death. I have envisioned my funeral in full details and you know nothing about it — know nothing about the candles, and the casket, know nothing about the maple or willow tree I want rooting in my soil. ask my greatest fear, and then hit me with a no, your real greatest fear. 

I have given you every opportunity to pry my ribs open like the lip of a shipping crate — given you every opportunity to roll up your sleeves and cradle the beat of my being in your palms like a ruby throated winged-thing — 

you say you know me, but we can agree to disagree

Untitled cento / Alex Moni-Sauri

The body of the boy lies on the asphalt like a paperclip.
The body of the boy lies on the asphalt
like the body of a boy. The aqueducts of the city of my language
clot with lather.
The townspeople lock arms to form a circle and another circle around that circle
and another circle to keep the soldiers from the boy’s body.
The world is bad and I am bad. Songs are born here
to grow food and children. It’s when the lease on the land runs out they learn
the heart is made up of so many acres. Even a little staple hole
may be the beacon which will light up the truth. I wonder what is coming
after this        whether it is air
or it is nothing

Migratory Boy/ Beth Suter

Dorothea’s note on photo: Has come to Yakima Valley for the third year to pick hops. Mother: “You’d be surprised what that boy can pick.”

like grandma, aged ten in ‘39
finished fourth grade

she swore, readin’ and writin’
better than my folks ever done—

took over raisin’ the young’uns
when Ma got the diabetes—

wish you coulda knowed her,
she was just like you

Day 14 / Poem 14

Fear and Politics (a duplex) / Bill Abbott

In an increasingly unstable world,
too many people lean toward the authoritarians.

            Too many people lean authoritarian
            because shows of strength feel safer.

Because shows of strength are safer,
people gravitate to the safety.

            People gravitate to safety.
            Nostalgia for calmer times.

Desire for the nostalgia of calmer times
make many people choose against their own interests.

            Many people choose against their own interests when
            so many power seekers have dangerous agendas.

So many power seekers have a dangerous agenda
in an increasingly unstable world.

We talk we talk   / Claudia Arevalo

We walk we walk 
Stop the voice says 
Don’t cross the street 
But we do 
Because we don’t believe in ghosts 
But we do 
I do 
I’ve seen them sitting on my bed at night 
Pushing a glass from my hand 
Moving the shower curtain 
Interrupting conversations
Derailing thoughts 
Even in death 
They are loved 
They are powerful 
And present 
To be loved like this 
To be missed 
To be talked to 
And about 

LAX / Zoe Berger

Anthropology explains 
Everything in a system:
The inside is also outside, etc. 
No such thing as a vacuum so
Yes I want to be eaten alive

Headphones set to eavesdropping 
She’s being transferred to St. Francis 
& Are you in bed? Wank off for me 
& Why do you think I’m acting strange
I’m literally on my way to you

Well she probably thinks you’re acting funny
Because you are & 
Thank god that’s a good hospital &
It’s dirty of me to listen but
Our merging was always a mess

Let Gold Palms Paint the Sky   / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

A Letter to Michael Brown, Summer 2014

My stomach turned in knots
counter clockwise 
as a vexed wind reinforces 
the fires around Ferguson
many miles from Flint,
yet the birds there sip 
from the same fountain. 
Inked clouds drip, 
filling buckets with sorrow to 
the brim.

I cry from afar, strolling 
across campus in slow mo 
to my second summer course, 
Acting 301, head down eyes 
glued to the pavement. My 
mind races, dangling arms 
attached to sweaty palms 
fogging my iPhone 5, 
colored gold like your soul. 

I fear unlocking 
it after the lynching I’ve seen 
on Twitter. Professor Quinn spots 
a distraught face
and asks why so gray? 

I wish I had time
to teach her about the gray area 
designated for Black boys like us, 
the detached graveyard
just miles outside of the land that was 
promised, where ghosts and kin 
whisper songs of hope. 

I hear them after dusk. 
Black bags form under my eyes 
from countless nights spent fighting 
sleep just to sing along.
I’m in no mood to act, not in this 
course nor like I care for what’s 
being taught. All that matters
is the fire raging inside me. 
Irate roars rumble 
in gaping pits,
aware that both you 
and Dorian knew your assassin 
wouldn’t miss

an opportunity to take 
your breath away even 
as your palms faced heaven. 

Though you were prematurely 
born back into the soil from 
which you came, I’ll make sure 
to dip my hands in gold 
and write your name in the sky.

kind of happy / Cathy Ferrell

I want the kind of happy that’s like your teenage niece when she scores Taylor Swift tickets like it’s Dolly’s first Grammy like being the 10th caller when you never win anything like two lines on a stick when you’ve been trying for months like one line when you’re not ready like one line when you’ve had a sore throat but no fever like enemies to lovers like running away with the villain like the scuff on those badass boots you wear once in a while like running through rain like the silk of rose petal in your gin like being alone in Target like the first few notes of Landslide like the ache in the belly of a cello like that lucky kid whose parents love each other like Etta singing Sunday Kind Of Love like orange blossom through rolled-down windows like making it to Friday like going braless at the end of a long day like the last gritty girl clawing her way out of the bloodiest creature feature you’ve ever seen

Birdboy / Michelle Frost

for Wayne
A different day but much like this one
a sunny summer Sunday you were still alive
you lived on a beach in Oregon we walked 
watching the sea in that warm wind 
Friendship for decades is a warm wind
Your brow furrowed talking of art and the state of the world   your serious far-off gaze 
searching for any sense you strolled holding your hands behind you professor artist philosopher friend   too few knew you
On this day I’m alone with the sun and birds
That beach and our walks come to mind
how the wind swept us along south to north desert to sea   two poets combing the shore
maybe never finding who needs us


I long to creak my way to you from bedroom 
to sectional. you are fast asleep 
on the sofa for the third night in a row 
& I miss you.

instead I am learning why old floors squeal 
under the creep of feet —  it’s friction, from
rubbing against each other like how I wish
to move my skin against yours; 
like wood boards that haven’t been properly
nailed to the floor —
I want to be properly nailed on the floor.

Let me be a window / Alex Moni-Sauri

Tough people will say that no one is coming
to save you: that the hooves in an endless stampede
do not care where they fall, that you alone are in charge
of swinging your hard black shoes up over the back
of whichever fast pony will carry you, racing, away –
some people are afraid. I am

afraid. On the ground, in the dirt, not a pony, still I think
the whole world is coming to save me, to take me, the whole world blowing
on hooves landing careful and clear, indifferent
though they may be.

Perpetual Destruction / Erika Sashedri

It’s the storm we dance around
on tender feet,
scruples plucked from
the surface of sanctity
with our toes, for

your fingers are busy
pointing at others
            [while mine pull petals
            from the last daisy:
            he loves me, he loves me not
            he loves me, he loves me not]

but our eyes.
my god, our eyes
            focus only on the tornado,
watching everything we’ve ever loved
take to the sky:
            our mothers
            our books
            our obstinance

after the worst of it has passed
and you have no one left to point to
and the daisy stem is wilted in my hand
our eyes meet:
that wasn’t so bad, we say

while a hundred thousand blackbirds
free fall from the clouds
with airplanes
in nosedive

and we don’t even think
to wake up
before they hit the ground


Scene Along “Skid Row,” Howard Street, San Francisco, California, 1937, Dorothea Lange/ Beth SuterWhen we came back [to San Francisco] we were confronted immediately with the terrors of the depression. Everyone was so shocked and panicky. ~Dorothea Lange

The old folks said,

it’s easier for a camel to pass

through the eye of a needle,

than for a rich man

to enter heaven,

but down here it’s


Almost a hundred years on—

the same land of milk and hunger—

Day 13 / Poem 13

Philosophy of Life / Bill Abbott

Life is an online dating profile,
a series of answered questions
that nobody will read,
choosing instead the pictures,
hoping to be a right swipe away
from being worthy.

But the photos do not hold up a fish or
take a photo in the gym mirror.
These photographs
offer the chaos of beauty,
the wildness of entropy,
the decay of norms,
the nostalgia of change,

and you can’t be sure,
if you want to be a lover of life,
because if you are,
then what would happen
if you say, “Oh, baby. I like it hard.”

Breaking through the asphalt surface  / Claudia Arevalo

You grow
With hardly any water 
You thrive 
Against a broken rusty fence 
You lean and rest 
It’s a relief 
That you are not close enough 
To breathe in 
The smell 
Of the squished decaying rat 
So close to you
On a Bushwick sidewalk 

ICU / Zoe Berger

Have a key. Need a prayer. 
Miss a plane. Want a walk. 

Hate your guts. Know your need. 
Love your hands. Forget your fault.

From Bodega to Barista    / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

The corner bodega on Kennedy and 
Prospect was the spot.
The owner, Mr. Vega, was the man. 

Always energetic, even
at 7 in the morning. I never got too excited
about sunshine since we didn’t get much of it in the hood.

The shiny objects I was most
familiar with were the medallions hanging 
around the necks of the

South Side gangsters. The icy links that swung back
and forth, side to side every 
time they served a hand in dice. 

Sometimes we’d get a
real good look at the jewels up close 
whenever they gave us a $20 bill

to go inside the store and purchase a handful of Dutches. 
We’d be left with $12 to split between us.
Arizona Iced Tea, Honey Buns, Doritos, you name it. 

And you couldn’t forget the gum for when the
girls walked by. Especially Stacey, the prettiest girl on the block. 
She even got hit on by all the old ass gangsters. 

The Abuelo’s and Tio’s playing dominos 
would lick their lips and whistle with no shame, 
then proceed to bang 

their black and white pieces against the wooden table
with the Puerto Rican flag
in the center as rum spilled out their plastic cups. 
Summertime was the greatest, especially at night. 

Every 4th of July Mr. Vega would bring out boxes
of fireworks and sparkles at 9 o’clock sharp and have his own show.
The middle-schoolers jumping double-dutch 

and the elementary kids getting 
soaked by the hydrant would flood the block going 
crazy, clapping with joy. Mr. Vega would have the 
gangsters seal off the block at both corners with

their Chevy Impala’s and Cadillac’s 
just to make sure that the kids were safe. 
Even the stoop kids came out of their domain to enjoy 

the light show. And since cops never came around much
until it was too late, our private block party
went unbothered into the night. That corner store was 
everything to us. 

It had everything you needed and craved. Milk, eggs and 
rice para mí Mama. Laundry detergent, toothpaste, toilet 
paper and paper towels for the crib. Kit-Kats, Snickers, 
Sour Patches, the red and blue bags of Skittles. 
And my favorite, the yellow bag of M&M’s. 

They had wave caps, wave brushes, quarter juices 
and sunflower seeds for the summer. In the fall 
when school started, those hot ham and cheese’s 

came super clutch in the mornings. Legendary 
butter rolls and chicken sandwiches for lunch. 
Mr. Vega sold it all. But the thing people will remember 
most will be the way he treated his community. 

Despite the many drug raids happening right outside 
his door, he never gave the gangsters a hard time. I 
guess since, in many ways,
they were his personal protection.

If there was a fight, he’d make sure it was a fair one
and that nobody got jumped. He’d let people
keep open a tab and would let you slide 
from time to time if you were really struggling. 

We all were, but he knew who really needed help 
the most. I had my first fight in front of that bodega 
and my first kiss. It was Stacey, my wife. The prettiest 
girl on the block. 

I miss that bodega. I miss my block. All there is now 
are condos, white folk walking their dogs with babies 
in strollers, and a goddamn Starbucks on the corner.

wildflower / Cathy Ferrell

sway with me to one-hit-wonders
dancing in the moonlight
is my favorite
we are kings of the harvest
be wild with me
even though i know you hate dancing
I want you
to do it because you can’t help yourself
wallflower, wildflower
even if it’s just once
I’ll remember it forever
we’ll help each other up
I’ll fold my fingers over yours
twine you in my tender
root here in this feral ground

Chinook Helicopter / Michelle Frost

The helicopter flies over low and slow
stark black in a clear blue cloudless sky
We  are  not  the  land  at  war  though
Pigeons and wrens chirp freely 
in the yard    doves coo    sun shines
A peaceful retreat today at home
I feel it thrumming in my chest 
long before it arrives like distant thunder
but less familiar  I stop what I’m doing 
step outside to see what feels so menacing
Holy Shit!  it’s crossing directly overhead
Tandem rotors warp the air surrounding me
CH-47 Chinook due east    then veers north
middle of nowhere    nothing but cacti
The Superstitions foothills and a dusty wind
Arizona is home to eight military bases
I shade my eyes to better see this spectacle
Stunning and terrifying at once just massive
I feel patriotic and grateful to be safe
Before it disappears from sight I’ve prayed 
for those in the world who know war 
for every survivor who has lost everything

TIME DOES NOT CARE / Laura Henebry

if you are a size four or a size six. if you have to order a top in a medium, or a large. does not care if you can squeeze yourself back in those black denim jeans with the button fly you wore when you were twenty-seven. does not worship the sorcery of shapewear.

time is not shy. is excitable as a new lover wanting to keep the lights on. time does not busy itself with worry. is confused when you pinch at these new rolls and folds, the cellulite on your thighs, asking yourself if this will ever feel good.

it takes time.

Morning again / Alex Moni-Sauri

Your face is pink and busy at the sink. Below your hands
is a clean white limit, a body made of borders – you’re the agent
and the refugee. I looked at you and heard the echo of a shoe
inside a dark gymnasium.

Our bedroom window makes a clean blue painting. At times
it seems you are driven, as by invisible, heated poker, away, away,
away from your own pair of legs. Your eyes roll like animals
beneath their sheets, but in the morning they are little men
walking quickly, late to work.                      

I saw your face when you listened to music. I heard your voice
about to cry. Small old dog under blankets, small moving lump
in the throat. The same atoms on one side of skin as the other.
The sun casts a window on the far wall we could walk through.

His Smile Lit Up the Room / Erika Sashedri

early morning
in the company of dew,
your chest cracked open.
dim light flickered in
mercury vapor and
fluorescence                 but

once you stopped breathing
they said
you’d bled sunshine,
pure and golden.
warm and righteous.
because it doesn’t take long

after death for things
to be mis-remembered.
for memories
to be dis-emboweled

by the vultures emboldened
with hindsight, beholden
to a congress  
of outward appearances

but you and I both know
the truth                 about

Dear Dorothea VI / Beth Suter

I was a portrait photographer in San Francisco. It was quite a venture because it was a rather expensive place, and I had what they called the cream of the trade. ~Dorothea Lange

Dear Dorothea

What was it like going from fine portraits to documenting dust? A government work program for artists—you didn’t lose your orthopedic shoes. Banks going bust, did you start hiding cash in the ice box or sew it into your clothes? In grandpa’s things: a cracked leather money belt stiff with ironed-flat fifties.

Day 12 / Poem 12

Cincinnati Art Museum / Bill Abbott

October 5, 2023

Looking through the Picassos
you note the painting,
the light through the canvas window,
and for a brief moment,
you think if the lights were just
turned off, that sunlight
would illuminate
at least this corner of the museum,

That painting of rain1,
you keep returning
to look again
because you’re half convinced
he has slashed lines into the canvas2.

The colors call you over,
play for you the cityscapes,
make you wish for
a pallet of buildings
in shades of anything but gray3.

Small oil paintings on wood
leave you wondering how
he managed such detail,
how he could have such control
at that scale.

At eighteen, you swore you’d never
understand art. Yet here you are.

  1. “Boisgeloup in the Rain,” 29 March 1932
  2. He didn’t. You think. Maybe look again.
  3. At a bare minimum, 50 shades, yes.

I’m in bed alone  / Claudia Arevalo

Who would like to kiss me anyway 
I’m full of 
My nose hurts 
My thick breath 
It is cold 
And gray 
No amount of 
La Vie est belle 
Can make life 
At this precise moment 

I take it back 
Strings of an angel 
At the end 
A tangled healing heart 

Bite me
And I’ll bite you
Right back 

No food 
No books
No movies 
No Wes Anderson
No Pulp fiction 
Can satiate 
This hunger 

In a state 
Of restlessness 
And annoyance 
I write 
I just can’t fall
Even my toes 
Are uncomfortable 

My left ovary cries 
I flip myself over 
Like a burnt pancake 
At midnight 
Not a good idea 

To do / Zoe Berger

  1. Shower together, naked. Do not kiss. 

  2. Put bags in other bags. Pull them out. Put them back. 

  3. Take to the desert. Also ocean. Don’t forget a sweater to drown in. 

  4. Bring these wherever you go: water, salt, rosary, dollar bill. 

  5. Obey dreams. The thunderbird, the kissing, and the rest.

  6. Allow totality. Yes always. 

Isolate Yourself in Nature While You’re Alive   / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

Take a seat in a field of flowers,
the iris scented garden with the
thick pine tree that has a family of fuzzy
squirrels dwelling inside, isolated from 
the world of tangled humans. 

Plug in your AirPods and remove
thoughts from your brain, words
from your tongue and anxiety 
from your lungs. Your warm thumb
presses play and Kiss of Life
by Sade sets the tone, bringing 
you back to moments long gone
but long-lasting. 

Dip your body into earth then soak
in a tub of sky water, secluded from
human opinion. Let the wind spin you 
around, leaving you Sahara dry before
you lay down with no pajamas since
outside clothes are most unwelcomed. 

Pour yourself a glass of serendipity, 
the kind that comes in options of red or 
white, then hold that poetry book you’ve
been yearning to read for months now
close to your heart. 

I pray the words hug your spirit before 
your hands caress the first page. 
I pray that flowers blanket your body long 
before your eyes close from old age.

second-hand Rolodex / Cathy Ferrell

I’m a second-hand Rolodex.

It takes me

forever to scroll through

every appropriate response

I’ve ever borrowed and stored away. 

By the time I’ve spun out

the moment has passed and

I’m still weird.

One day I will turn

into a black hole, rotating


as yellowed cards spin by.

I can’t seem to find

the one I’m looking for.

Maybe I didn’t start

with a full deck, to begin with.

When Day is Done: a pantoum / Michelle Frost

When day is done and you close the blinds 
Sit down with yourself
You open the wine 
Raise your glass to someone you love
Sit down with yourself
Remember a time
Raise your glass for someone you loved
Too many have died
Remember the times 
We all were so young
Too many have died 
The downside of aging
We all were so young
Before the years set in
The downside of aging 
When day is done and you close the blinds


on my way to work, there’s another accident on 787.1 the merging lane is closed. it’s a mess. no one wants to let anyone in. no one wants to let anyone out. bumpers are running up on bumpers. I let the SUV cut in front of me.2 we stop. we start. Spotify tells me I’m in the mood for mellow indie folk rock.3 brakes whine under the weight of a foot like a pup’s tail caught. I hit skip.4 we stop. we stop. we stop. if I turn my head there’s the cherry red crunch of somebody’s front end.5 if I turn my head, I’m afraid my neck will be a permanent twist.6 skip. skip. skip. I’m not the person Spotify thinks I am, but it’s too late to change.7

  1. People are moving fast and distracted. Yesterday a blue camaro flew across three lanes of traffic to make it to their exit, and I almost started modeling as a hood ornament. 
  2. Letis a generous term. Used to tell the reader what I want them to think of me [kind] vs the reality where she would have t-boned me and dragged me out of the front seat by my hair — suplexing my body on the asphalt if I didn’t. 
  3. I am absolutely not, but I haven’t had a night where my phone hasn’t kept me scrolling until 2:00 AM in months. 
  4. Iron and wine is not the morning rush hour traffic late to workvibe.
  5. It’s two cars in the accident. A sedan rear ended the back of a minivan, but at least everyone is okay. At least no one has died. 
  6. Rubbernecking is what my dad calls it. On our road trips to the city, he would spit and fume over the people slowing down like how vultures circle before they dive. 
  7. My burn out is at the point where I am letting an algorithm dictate these things. Let, once again, used generously. 

Can’t help myself / Alex Moni-Sauri

           after Sun Yuan & Peng Yu

In one version, I’m the robot
built inside a box, endlessly failing
to contain the slop I’ve been
assigned. The liquid pools
of its own slack being, almost
without effort, almost natural,
like a law. My boss’s face is a vast
white void. I can’t leave it
alone. My body is a swivel,
huge and defined, even as
the rust sets in to still my joints.
Slowing down enormously until
inevitable cease. My working
goal, unclear in life, now forever
out of reach.

Left Behind / Erika Sashedri

autumn sky echoes
the mournful honk of lone goose
slow in migration

Alabama Plow Girl, Near Eutaw, Alabama / Beth Suter

I went out just absolutely in the blind staggers. ~Dorothea Lange

like grandpa
in the drought of ‘36
aged fourteen, he said,

hitched like a mule

his kid brother driving
meanest summer
I ever done lived—

in my rattlesnake dreams
I’m always barefoot

Day 11 / Poem 11

My Message for You / Bill Abbott

There is so much pain in this life.
Let’s don’t add to it.
There is so much struggle and sorrow.
Let’s help each other.

There is so much fear and shame.
I need you to join me,
I need to join you,
to lessen their grip.

There is so much loss and grief.
Please take my hand.
Let us work together
to help and to soothe.

Let us love and care,
embrace instead of flinch,
give as we can,
take as we need,
and heal.

Perspective  / Claudia Arevalo

Michelle’s mother died of the Coronavirus
My cousin Maritza’s mother died of cancer
My friend Alejandro’s mother died due to the Coronavirus or an old age related condition 
I don’t know. 
I haven’t asked how can I ask something like that while he’s still grieving?
One of our translators is being brought back from Israel to Germany 
because they are preparing for an upcoming war
Palestinians are already living in horror 
Israelis are already living in horror
Back in my home country Colombia civilians are protesting against the ongoing corruption
that has been sucking
the country dry for decades 
decades that feel like centuries 
on both sides mostly young men die, cities are destroyed while most survive on fumes because the government offers no support 
No free education, no health for all, no stimulus checks
How do they do it?
How do they survive?
The minimum salary if there’s one is not enough to support one human let alone a family 
Venezuelan refugees are living of the scraps of an already squeezed out society 
When we go out on the streets of Berlin it is green and clean 
People ride their bikes unhurriedly and unharmed, children play in various parks, you can hear birds sing
NY is vaccinating its people at a fast rate preparing for a summer of love, music and the revival of a city that refuses to back down even if its rich tenants left when it needed their support the most 
This city is a survivor 
We, humans are survivors
Why do we make life so unbearable for each other, for animals, plants, the oceans, the sky?
I want the peace that I feel when I walk out onto the street for everyone
I know, it’s impossible 
But it shouldn’t be
Idealistic fools 
We need more of those
More hope 
The human race 
Turning the wheel against cruelty
Against inequality 
Against despair, destruction 
Deep dark senseless killing 
Where is the light? 

Songs of an Absent Father   / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

He wrote the same 
melody for our mothers 
with different pens.
Daddy was a rolling stone 
orchestrating symphonies as he strolled.

Paths can get cold and dim 
when walking alone. The pain 
trapped behind these walls
can be heard from miles 
away. Somehow our mothers 
still worked wonders 

when it came to molding men. 
Mine a Puerto Rican Goddess, 
yours a Black Queen from the Bronx, 
he tried killing them softly as the song’s 
notes expanded the distance between us. 

Our first collaboration wrecked nerves, 
what if this feature doesn’t work? 
Our identical grins shattered anxieties 
as we tore old pages apart, 
clearing way for brand new notes.

Behold the brazen brothers 
rewriting the lyrics 
to their absent father’s beat. 

What kind of mother? / Cathy Ferrell

During these days when

the howling world waxes full,
I am afraid
I will fall off its tilt.

I pace
I breathe
I count
the things my body carries:

a chicken pox scar
a bruise
the luxury of extra weight 
               (a good 20 pounds)
scores notched in bones
tender whispering phantoms
a uterus
tiny cocoons incubating
old moons

out, lower half
numb, waning.

They lifted you from
a pool of acrid iron tang
up onto my chest
without cleaning you
first. I gathered you
to me. Slippery,
shining, new. You lifted
your head. Searched,

These days
I want to cocoon 
myself and you,
fold us back up
together in the
Wolf Moon, just as
it was a month 
before you were born.

But what is borne of hiding?
It’s easy to mistake
faded pangs
for peace.
The tilted world
has dilated. 

What kind of birth
is this? What kind
of mother?

Starting Over / Michelle Frost

Maybe you move across town or out of town across the country     or to another country
You change your name   for better or worse
File for Divorce   Lose everything & the kids
Maybe you enjoy the date but they ghost you
Get fired  Change careers  Find your dream job  Meet your soulmate   Lose your soulmate
Someone you love dies suddenly or painfully
Maybe you are injured   You recover but it’s harder   Quit smoking   Quit drinking   Lose
weight   Lose your home in a fire or a flood
Maybe you win the lottery one in a million odds 
But you gamble it away   become penniless
“What doesn’t break you makes you stronger”
If you are reading this you have survived
Congratulations to us,  it ain’t easy being alive

The tide / Alex Moni-Sauri

A fishing line draws a string of geese 
across the sky. The line goes 
from a child’s hand to the plastic bike
she’s pushing slowly toward a small dog
on a leash, the leash held by a stranger
buying beads from her mother in the sun. 
The sun draws sweat across their foreheads. 
The dog shifts behind a leg. The leash winds 
around table and chairs and the long strands 
of beads, which shake and shimmer in the heat. 
The line goes from the dog’s raised hairs
to the girl’s small hands, from her new mean squint 
out in all directions. I have the feeling they are looking
in a mirror. The tide lunges out onto the beach 
below, the tide a pack of dogs on leashes pulling
pebbles into sand. Us on the shore briefly 
lit up by our longings.

Migrant Mother, 1936, Dorothea Lange / Beth Suter

I would like to have one year. Just one, where I would not have to take into account anything but my own inner demands. ~Dorothea Lange

body of harvest
supplying the feast

horns of plenty
leaking milk

anointing every tooth
every bite—

filling as she empties

Day 10 / Poem 10

Conversations With My Uncle Mike, Roof of Grand Central Station / Bill Abbott

What happened to me in my childhood that I don’t remember?
In 100 years, I’ll be dead and forgotten, lost in everyone’s memory.

What’s the real reason for this life of suffering?
Cat vomit under the bed.

Did my mom have an affair at some point?
Glass slipper, self-playing harp, poisoned apple

Why did I struggle so much to get here?
The Chipmunks, gospel music, “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter”

What was it about Star Wars?
I’d like to have the muscles and looks of Brad Pitt.

Is there an actual higher power?
The cure for a broken heart is time, alcohol, and a new lover.

Why am I so goddamned awkward?
An unstable house? Wood, bricks, wiring, mortar, plaster, nails, screws, tools, glass, metal.

The horny empanada house  / Claudia Arevalo

Another stop
In our N.Y.C. story 
A shelter 
One of the dirtiest toilets 
I’ve ever cleaned 
A few years later 
Whose open smile 
I can still summon
As he made delicious sandwiches 
And danced around 
Milk & Hops
has cancer 
His girlfriend left him 
His friends and family love him 
Jim lives elsewhere 
Still with Mary Boo dressed in pink 
And MJ is still in NY 
With me 
And Blake 
Sophi in Berlin 
The world turns 
Life changes 
The unexpected 
And try not to cry 

(In Memoriam – Jacob died this past Sunday, he will be deeply missed) 

Pig / Zoe Berger

Driving above the speed limit
                 Did you know pigs can’t look up?
I flash my brights 
                 So they’ve never seen the stars? 
Signal right
                 I’d like to hold one up at just the right angle
Slow down
                 So he can see

Queen of Forgiveness  / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

We owe her a mountains’ worth of apologies for the harm we’ve done.

A lineage of oak trees shiver at the sound of saws, petrified we’ll further 
vandalize the soil that suckles their souls. 

Blades of grass crumble under rubber wheels of disaster, yellow trucks pluck
roots from the ground, clinging for life, in lieu of condos and Trader Joe’s.

Winter months, once glacial and packed with milky flakes – now sizzle, melting 
sultry farmlands thronged with somber cattle that graze on hope. 

Innumerable creatures flee hoary coral reefs, once brimmed of the most 
brilliant hues, in search of a sanctioned scene to exist. 

A gaggle soars south above our scalps ahead of winter retreat, though the gusts 
in the meadows they roam to will scarcely be different from the winds they left. 

A scurry sprints toward suburbian trees, peeking back every quarter mile as  
their ancestral home gets wrecked by an orange sheet of searing flame. 

An invader foreigner throws a plastic straw into Montego Bay, filling the belly of the 
same turtle he’ll later take a picture of while snorkeling, with venom. 

Children of the sea are born without malice. They feel no anger nor revenge,
carrying out good deeds of upkeep essential to her survival.

Yesterday I captured a yellow perch and posted the picture online before 
apologizing to it as blood dripped from its mouth. Maroon droplets splattered
onto my shoes. 

I softly sent it back into the river and watched it swim away, splashing its tail in 
forgiveness, how the earth pardons us each time we inflict ruin. 

We owe her a mountains’ worth of apologies for the harm we’ve done.

10 Ways To Say Goodbye / Cathy Ferrell

  1. Unfriend. Delete the phone number. Delete the messages.

  2. Shrug. A neat alternative to an expletive. For those you want to dismiss. Eye contact not necessary.

  3. Wave. Emotionless. When you need to get away from a large group.

  4. Side hug. Release quickly. For acquaintances and awkward leave-taking. For those who aren’t huggers. For you, when you’ve had enough of someone nice.

  5. Two-arm embrace. Save exclusively for someone you really like. If you’re lucky, they won’t pull away first.

  6. Loiter in the parking lot while everyone talks. This one’s not ideal.

  7. Loiter in the restaurant booth. Savor your glass of wine. You may or may not be alone at this point.

  8. Sit with them. Say anything but goodbye. Do they know you’re there?

  9. Cry into the corner of the elevator on the way down from ICU.

  10. Wake up in the night and be glad you followed through on Number 8 because that word is too final and this way you imagine you’ll give them a two-arm hug next time you see them and maybe next time you’re sitting alone in the restaurant booth you’ll imagine them joining you as you savor the last drip of anything dry.

How to Muse / Michelle Frost

Light a candle in the window 
Pour your Guest an evening drink
Play music that gives your heart a squeeze
Sink into your comfy chair at last 
Ask your Guest   “What’s news?” 
What’s a bother   What is most gratifying?
What is unforgettable   and Why?
Notice what they tell you    how that feels
Because the Guest is You 
And You write the poems 
Call it poetry or not it’s your life 
Play music that gives your heart a squeeze


I listen to Mazzy Star in the Impreza. 
all the windows down. full blast, when 
I am parking my car. 
if this car is a home, then in this home 
we cry-sing to sad girl rock — 
making us want to melt into the rug 
like chewing gum. & I’m not going 

to say I want to be the stick of spearmint mashed 
between your teeth, because 
that would be weird, and I am trying hard 
to not say weird girl shit…
unless you like my weird girl shit…

anyway, I’m sorry, but 
it’s coming out like the screech 
of a high schooler’s violin, or when Kanye 
jumped on the stage and interrupted Taylor Swift. 

I’m sorry, but when we first met 
you had a soft lunchbox cooler filled 
with a six pack of High Life. Cracking
each open on a stoop in South Troy, 
and when I got too close, I could smell 
charring pine, heavy on your collar. 

& I’m sorry, but there exists a future 
woven in the threads of the universe 
where I take you up for a drink. where your lips
crowned my tailbone as Queen. 

it’s easy to create a life with you 
without knowing you — 
ordering lo-mein on the couch in our underwear,
with my legs swept over yours, slurping 
grease slick noodles, passing the carton 
back and forth. 

I’m nostalgic for what 
never was.

Night / Alex Moni-Sauri

For weeks a wounded creature has been dragging its limbs through the forest
of my mind, grasping invisibly at something out of reach. It harbors hunger
like a businessman or priest. Distant crashing at all hours. I ask if it’d like to go
to church. It must be wanting more than berries. It asks if church comes before
or after death, whether the moment is an atom of time or of eternity. Insufferable.
The question degrades with leaf litter, cushioning our shifting floor. Don’t look
for a clean answer. The porch light holds out its bag of fog against the night.

Enough of This War Machine / Erika Sashedri

You stand
below the story of Orion.
Chin tilted up, eyes swimming
in the bearable stillness of stars.
Expecting something
from the heavens. Anything
other than this.

Because here
is where we kneel
before the blood hills,
with burnt hearts and
perishable fingers.
Sifting through rubble.
We are in mourning for
what will never be.

And so, all of this
I wish to bury.
Your body with mine,
our tender wounds
dressed with ash.

For, if we are quiet,
perhaps the world
will be quiet too.

Dear Dorothea V / Beth Suter

… the children look at your camera with their dirty, grimy little hands… and you let them because… if you behave in a generous manner, you’re very apt to receive it. ~Dorothea Lange

Dear Dorothea

And when you bore witness did you join in the worship songs—that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost—preachers moved on, the creeks dried up and nowhere to baptize, home congregations wind-scattered like so much dust—the beseeching, breathing an act of faith—were photos your prayers?

Day 9 / Poem 9

Blue Ridge Parkway / Bill Abbott

Autumn has always been a ragweed struggle
through the Kleenex pass, an annual series of weeks
of sniffling, and, for several years,
an announcement of intent from my parents
that they were looking forward to
the annual trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway
to take in the beauty of the turning leaves,
which meant the kids would be stuck in the car
on a trip to nowhere, just to forced appreciate
the fall colors, trapped in the car again
where we’d have to be part of the conversation.

I was running through woods and up hills covered in trees
all the time, in an effort to escape that house.
But sure, put me in a car and let’s go stare at the leaves
blurring past, trapped together so my parents could
talk about, take pictures of, the leaves in that limbo.

Moment  / Claudia Arevalo

I wish I could write this. 
Two bodies intertwined on a white bed. 
Her hair covering half her face, she can see his chin and part of his neck. 
In the background Fade into you and a dog barking in the distance.
Time stops. 
They don’t want the week to begin. 
It’s a Monday morning somewhere in N.Y. 

Moon / Zoe Berger

Because I feel the universe 
Talking to me, because 
I only wrote a book so 
Something would respond
Because our lonely childhoods
To cope I wake up new places
You wish
You could live like me
I hope you know most nights 
I practice being the moon
Reflecting your light

I finally get a morning with you / Cathy Ferrell

to laze in bed no startle of alarm but I still have to tell myself to unclench my jaw I should wear my mouth guard but I hate it so I’ll just grind my back molars every night until they’re flat-top mesas in the back of my mouth no begrudging kickstart to rush into another day just a warm rollover into the crook of your neck your breath is sour and my mouth tastes stale but I kiss you anyway and your hands begin to wake and roam you never call me baby or sweetheart but you take my hand and bring it up to your lips and I’ll take that as an endearment hurry up before the kids come in you never call me baby or sweetheart but I’ve gotten more morning-breath-scented I love yous than I can count and you never leave without looking me in the eye and I guess I’ll take that too and these are all the things I think of before you’ve even reached for your phone

Weight / Michelle Frost

Saying goodbye I rise into clouds
Light as feathers   afloat for now
Only the weight of new memories 
the sleight weight of recent hugs
You will be here all of you like air
The weight of love wherever I go


After Ann Pedone

let’s begin with smoke. 
smoke is a needy bastard. clings to the hem of the white wool coat I wore over the blue dress I fed to your blue mouth in Montreal. hair of ash and nicotine. earned wetness smoldering the burning of your tongue; the hot and sour of your fuck. your knees numb and curdling between four inch heels dug in snow. 
the period under my left eye makes a semi-colon with the pulling comma of your fishhook thumb.  when I roll down the waist of your denim it’s the physical act of an ellipsis drawing me in. the exclamation of your delving fingers diving deeper towards the asterisk of my asshole; the parentheses of my cunt.  
new lovers. new order. what’s new to us, like you, limp and languid on a Sunday stroking the belly of my dog; or me, frying half a dozen eggs bare bottomed in the kitchen. scorching butter in the cast iron. birthing smoke — the screech of the detector  wailing like a newborn as we welcome it into our lungs.

Full war moon / Alex Moni-Sauri

Last week a hen left
pennies of blood on the wood
of a white lawn chair

as she was lifted
through the sky. There was sunlight,
and the rising cry of bagpipes

from the naval base next door.
Trees stood and swayed
like counsel.

Today, an egg broke wrongly

on the dish. Its yellow boat rode
a thin red wave, a scraped-out

smell. Shells take care
to hide such color. Another opened
and was healthy, clear.

Fear, go like this —
through the window, leaving me

no coins. Salt in my eyes
frays the edges of the moon.
Soft thistle in the sky.

The toylike buzz of
a yellow helicopter fills
the late red air.

Dogs look up to growl,
hackles standing in salute.

Without, What We Become / Erika Sashedri

In a pure reflection
there is no echo
of movement.
Here, your eyes are
blistering jewels–
blue topaz
streaked with smoke.

You are beautiful
in the era of
You are beautiful
in the era of despair,
though not because of
what is seen, but rather
what is known:

a crystalline light
grown with every breath
against ordure
that bites beneath the flesh.

Without, what we become
is petrified.
Not with fear, but as
a tree long dead
over ten millennia,
transformed from
the softness of living cells
to the deathly bulk of stone.

A Very Blue Eagle Along California Highway, November 1936, Dorothea Lange / Beth Suter

Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures. ~Dorothea Lange

what did you

           feel for the strung-up

eagle tied

           Christ-like to

barbed wire

           sacrificed like

the rest of us

           for some kind

of progress

Day 8 / Poem 8

The Value of Poetry / Bill Abbott

When I got to college
and no longer lived under
that roof,
when I could only hear
my own voice
telling me who I was,
I found poetry
on my own, by writing,
unaware that’s what it was.

Words flowed out,
and I let them,
unable to keep them in
any longer.
I wrote often,
embraced the title,
showed everyone I could find
what I had just written.

In the process, I found readings.
In the process, I took to the stage.
In the process, I found my own salvation,
my own way to myself,
my own voice
that had been hidden away,
taped shut, silenced.
There was nobody to tell me
my thoughts were wrong.
I finally had a voice,
and I finally had the right to use it.

Poetry saved me.

I do yoga   / Claudia Arevalo

To try and calm my mind 
Warrior pose 
His long limbs 
Hands to chest 
Our hands intertwined 
Downward facing dog 
We come together 
Corpse pose 
I stay 
For a long time 
The body 
Left behind 
A hit 
And run 

Fish / Zoe Berger

My tongue is a fish. 
Thank you. Always 
the best. No worries if not. 
Please kill me. Kidding. 
I’m sober but clarity can get ugly. 
The bartender quit. He’s 
leaving town, says even 
if it’s the same 
it’ll be different.  
Means, I’ll end up 
where I want to go. 

Poisoned Fountains   / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

Flint, 2014

Vacant buckets 
filled to the brim
brown water 
stains your teeth like coffee 
as you sip poison from a faucet
leaving your cracked lips cactus dry. 

Mold covers 
your ceiling
dims your hearing
turning senses dull. 

Red and blue lights soar 
through the night as sirens
scream from afar. 

You try your best to
holler for help as they zoom

and though you dialed nine eleven 
weeks ago, more pressing
issues are at hand.

Today a milky man who lives
on the wealthy side of town 
where water flows flawlessly 
called police for help with a leak.

His pipes were repaired before 
he hung up the phone.

Peeling a tangerine / Cathy Ferrell

A quiet moment:
me, sitting in the morning,
peeling a tangerine.

This is a perfect moment,
pliant, fragrant,
generous. I breathe

in citrus groves and
ply soft segments apart,
release a torrent with my tongue.

such a tiny perfect moment when I, 
the oldest daughter,
can just be

a person sitting, 
eating a tangerine

Halloween is Taking Over Town / Michelle Frost

She examines her work   a newly spun web
attached at the eaves reaching like death
across the haunted yard   bones & boots
Halloween is creeping around the corner
casting her long shadow   a black cloak 
Heavy webs gleam in rays of sunlight 
Yard after yard Halloween drifts like fog
Giant spiders crawl up the house
Jack-O-Lantern smirks from the stoop
She stacks straw bales for rats and skulls
Skeletons & ghosts swing from trees
a-swirling in the strong October breeze
Gravestones and hands reach up from grass
Halloween is the chore of spooky yard decor
Neighbors wave and give thumbs up

MOVING IN / Laura Henebry

fresh white walls. clean radiators without
the dust of a settling life.                  

                 you will move in to this quiet unsure 
                 if you are haunting it, or if it is 
                 haunting you.

it’s not all bad here. 

                 the dog stretches her fleece to take 
                 over the side of the bed hurting you 
                 with its emptiness.    

you will hold her tight to your chest 
like a bandage clotting this invisible 

                 it’s not all bad here.

food still tastes good even if you 
can’t stomach it. 

                 friends still call as if they are an alarm 
                 to jerk you awake from the 
                 worst of it. 

how the loosening waist of your worn 
jeans no longer recognizes you.  

                 after all, you are shedding a former 
                 you. cleaving away the pieces you                          don’t need. finding what you buried.

  lifting wall to wall carpet, revealing
  the most gorgeous hardwood. 

Having it all / Alex Moni-Sauri

Roots buckle the sun
in the grease on the streets of
my remembered life

Subterranean / Erika Sashedri

heat rising
drives us
in the
mining towns;
now we are
mole people
homes with
rock walls
no windows,
where we trade

if we are
to chip away
at the only thing we have left

Dear Dorothea IV / Beth Suter

To have a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable. I have only touched it, just touched it. ~Dorothea Lange

Dear Dorothea

            I see what’s missing in your shots—woods and critters, the hunted and cut down, the plowed under. They say we’re due another dust bowl— too much drought and disturbed dirt, with fiercer winds—will it be me or my kin parched, wilted on that road, baked in the kiln of our own making? Your photos, not historic, prophetic.

Day 7 / Poem 7

Ladies of the Night / Bill Abbott

Dad once told my sister and I,
when my brother was older,
“I’m thinking of getting your brother a hooker.”
My preacher father, who had a hostility toward porn
and sex outside of marriage,
wanted to buy a prostitute for David,
who had cerebral palsy,
because he would never have sex otherwise.

It was baffling. Did he want our approval?
It was almost like
the potential morality of it all
actually took into consideration
that every situation was not the same.

I don’t believe dad ever did it,
probably because he didn’t know how
to find a prostitute,
but maybe he did. Or maybe his morals
got in the way. I can’t say.
But I’ll give dad credit for wanting
his son to have that experience,
that positive human interaction,
that brief moment of pleasure
at least once in his life.

Electrodomésticos  / Claudia Arevalo

White home appliances. Wash, rinse, dry, fold. Blue mood. Then again wash, rinse, dry, fold. Purple haze. Still sleep on a bed without sheets. Clean black cat’s litter disgusting ammonia smell. Feed same cat. Day after day. Cook, eat, do dishes. In a green kitchen. High ceilings of an artist’s loft. Day in day out. Need to read. Want to write. Mom this. Mom that. There’s no escape. Toilet paper, groceries, towels, oatmeal and bananas. Kimonos, T-shirts, panties, pants. Owned, worn, twisted in and out. 

Want to read. Need to write. In bed, in a capsule, in a storm. With a transparent pen on a blue Moleskin. Mom. Mom. Love you. Squeeze minutes, hours, days. Frozen, slowed down, trapped. Wash, rinse, dry, fold, cook, eat, do dishes in a pink kitchen. An unstoppable merry go round of mindless endless necessary chores. Stop think. Stop dream. Stop read. Stop write. Just stop. Breathe.

Flirting / Zoe Berger

I don’t care what you call me 
as long as you’re calling me. 
You see me outside having fun,
flirting with the paint salesmen 
and the alpine researchers 
and the old guy eating 
the last slice of pizza 
at the bar. I can’t write 
about what might happen
so I’ll tell you I woke up. 

Winter’s Moon  / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

Grass hidden beneath frost,
furry faces buried in snow,
                                                     frosted memories melt down to ice
                                                     water and spill into cosmic rivers. 
                                                                                                                          Cabins smothered by a crisp fog that
                                                                                                                          grooves to the rhythm of the moon

                                                                                                                          as stars stare at a standstill,
                                                                                                                          illuminating the sable night. 
                                                     A numbing wind is released from this
                                                     northern December, racing toward
the sun in search of warmer days.
Dim ambition for winters to come.

Poisoned Fountains 

Flint, 2014

Vacant buckets 
filled to the brim
brown water 
stains your teeth like coffee 
as you sip poison from a faucet
leaving your cracked lips cactus dry. 

Mold covers 
your ceiling
dims your hearing
turning senses dull. 

Red and blue lights soar 
through the night as sirens
scream from afar. 

You try your best to
holler for help as they zoom

and though you dialed nine eleven 
weeks ago, more pressing 
issues are at hand.

Today a milky man who lives
on the wealthy side of town 
where water flows flawlessly 
called police for help with a leak.

His pipes were repaired before 
he hung up the phone.

Kindergarten Math / Cathy Ferrell

after Gary Thomas’ poem, Integers

When I taught Kindergarten,
we had a routine
hot-glued to the wall:
Morning circle
Calendar time
When it was time for lunch,
I lined the kids up one by one by one
behind the other.

I have never been good 
with math, measurements, directions. 
I get disoriented easily. 
Loud noises startle me, and I can’t stand 
in long lines. But counting, 
this I can do. Back and forth 
from 1 to 10, quickly, in time 
with my heartbeat, or to 5 
if it’s dire, fingers tapping 
on imaginary piano keys. 
And at night, slowly 
up and down 
100 imaginary steps to get myself sleepy.

Maybe it’s the Kindergarten teacher in me,
all those years spent sing-song counting
little heads in line, little hands at the sink,
lunchboxes waiting in a row. Big feelings
diffused with deep breaths and calm reminders,

Last spring, I was in Seattle
for a conference.
My sister dropped me off.
I had my notebook, and snacks in an insulated bag.
By the afternoon, I needed to be outside.
I found the entrance.
I stopped outside the large glass doors.
I knew if I walked in a straight line and back,
counting my steps,
I could never get lost.

I have never been good
with math, but I like
predictability, and numbers
are predictable even if I don’t
understand their interactions.
They are predictable, even if life
is not.

I could never have predicted that
on the drive home from holding
my grandfather’s life-mottled hand
I’d get a call about my uncle
and would be driving to hold his hand
too although it could not hold mine back.

[1 (expected) loss + 1 (unexpected) loss] ÷ 3 days last November = 1 deep freeze of the soul

Like I said, I’m not good with math.
But here’s the thing–
sometimes you just have to go back
to Kindergarten.

And settle into the certainty
of one step and then another
and know
that you plus me will always equal



Wanda / Michelle Frost

We sit outside in wicker chairs
watching the world go by
here in Portland on Salmon Street
my neighbor Wanda and I
She moved in next door a decade ago
We gardened together at the fence line 
old rusty wire fence barely there
On our knees weeding and visiting
The grassy tree shade of Pacific Northwest
where summers are Heaven   breezy & soft
Her 80 years to my 50 we fell into friendship easy as a stream under the old shade trees
Sitting together for years with Wanda
Time seems to stop at her kitchen table
Ice cream & stories   her cats in the sunlight
My true friend on this footpath through life


gauzy flame. 
our skin, papery
wings twirling towards this 

Salmon season  / Alex Moni-Sauri

The clouds are thick as dough
over the sea. Sun shows through
a tear. People line up along the shore,
knee deep in salt, strings angled tight
against the waves.
No one’s pulled anything up.
A soft shape appears
on the horizon, flashes with sun
and sinks again.

Seagulls bunch like flies
on the eye of the ocean.
I pour myself into two buckets
evenly: two buckets filled
with sand, one with a balloon inside
the size of a small fist.
Bright hot clouds
put the animal smell in my hair.
Two hawks (at least)
are hunting too.

Questions / Erika Sashedri

were we microcosmic energy
resting on a pin tip
born from stardust,
fission, sporulation, division

were we the crawl
of slick bodies to land
our stunted gills and
webbed fingers longing for dirt

did it take more
than one day to get
these thumbs
we use to build bombs


are some of us going to heaven?

Tractored Out, Childress County, Texas, 1938, Dorothea Lange / Beth Suter

I was compelled to photograph as a direct response to what was around me.
~Dorothea Lange

like grandma’s cabin off Salt Lick Road
she said, salted fat back in the beans
bowls full of greens till the dust come—
salt sprinkled on the threshold
to keep out the boogerman
Booger Hollow, Booger Branch,
the whole place hainted—
she hides in my mouth
but comes out cooking—
the same craving for salt

Day 6 / Poem 6

Exercising Your Demons / Bill Abbott

Okay, before we get started,
we need a warm-up, a chance to
stretch out all those kinks,
and I just know you have lots of
kinks to work out. Now reach!
Stretch your arms out for those
poor damned souls!
That’s right. Now flex those horns.

Beelzebub, you’re not putting in
enough effort here. Let’s really stretch
this time. Now go. One, two. One, two.
And release. Do you feel that in your core?
If you’re not feeling it, you’re not stretching
far enough. And reach!

There. Now rest for a minute.
Catch your breath before we really
get going. Okay, demons, let’s get to work
for real on toning up and feeling that burn.
This time, we’re going to do pitchfork jabs.

Get your pitchfork to your side, and one,
and two. One and two. One and two.
Azeroth, get more reach on those jabs.
If it helps, visualize the damned in front of you.
Visualize how much they deserve it.
And one, and two. One and two. One and two.
And stop.

Now let’s work on our flaying arms.
You simply can’t ignore it.
Pull the arms up and behind your head,
and crack that whip. Crack it. And…

Long neck    / Claudia Arevalo

Strong shoulders 
Long fingers digging into my skin
The green smell of mud and rain

Memories of living close to the jungle 
Playing with a snake 
poking it with a stick 
at two 
Swimming in a pool 

with frog eggs 
Seeing a woman 
offering a cigarette 
to a wet bat 
a bat that had fallen 
Into the pool


Leaving behind 
a boyfriend of four years 
who has just proposed 
The grey city 
The cold city

Longing for 
the wild nine year old 
Who ate 
stolen green mangoes
With salt 
on a rooftop 

Reclaiming freedom 
a body 
that had only known 
one lover 

The idea of marriage 
of forever 
Eternal faithfulness 
made her want to 
all protocols

Far away 
from society’s eyes
 she let herself go 
and gave herself 
to be a thoughtless 

As soon 
as she boarded the plane 
she took off the emerald and diamond ring set in white gold 

Anatomy/ Zoe Berger

No doubt I shall pass that way
Some time after dark. No doubt 
My legs will find 
The Manhattan-bound L.
No doubt I’ll hop every cross street, 
Lamenting my eyes, praising 
My hands, 
Which shoot straight, strike 
Light, all those hard 
Commendable acts of night. 
Still my lungs
And my liver.
The clothes 
I take off. The nails,
My rings, 
My rings which stay on. 

The Last Breath / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

My ancestors walk beside me,
their last breath was my first. 

The wind here blows south where we belong,
toward the palm trees that chant in sync with el coquí. 

On islands that rock steady to the pace of each sunset, 
orange horizons crawl toward the sky spilling a blue hue. 

Fire rages inside me daring my lungs to exhale. The
fear of dimming used to reside in my mind rent free, but 

life was never the same once I peeked my head into the 
mirror, enamored by the glow. The way I shine 

leaves no room for fear, the
survival of plagues, pigs, presidents, and pandemics

heightens the hero in you. What’s another heartbreak 
when abandonment is your neighbor?

When the thought of death is peaceful, what drives
you to keep breathing? Since you’ve witnessed several

uncles self-destruct on their way back to the soil,
leaving was their most peaceful stage in life. 

Your heart aches, unable to hug them, but still you 
clink glasses for a toast, light a match for a smoke. 

Your heart is warmer now, knowing their arms hold steady 
like a force field wrapped around you, divine protection.  

Prayers from centuries ago shields me today, 
in perpetuity.

Morning Walk / Cathy Ferrell

This morning
I scrubbed the ugly
off my skin
with roughage
out of sidewalk
a smile
yellow petals
to blue sky
I took my tired bones
over the hills
I had been
meaning to walk
and ignored the sign
that says
Not Here.

There is a kind of freedom
in the breeze on your face
when you close your eyes
for three steps, four, five
When you trust it to push
you along in the direction
you were always meant
to go When you open

them, you see the pair of cranes

                           in the field behind your house leap

                                                                up on strong legs, wings flapping,

                                                                                         necks outstretched, hollow bones to sky

you lean forward
lift up on your toes

What Am I Forgetting   / Michelle Frost

I wake as usual   my name intact
My dog’s name too and all three cats
We eat breakfast like we always do
Then turn off the coffee snuff the candle
I write my list To-do today
so I don’t forget bananas and stamps
so I don’t forget to mail the birthday
card that I did remember to buy this time
I have not forgotten to make the calls
to talk with The Office
to check the oil and kick the tires
to pay the bills before they are due
I will probably never forget the songs
1970s forever in my brain thank you Cher
Fleetwood Mac & The Beatles’ Michelle
Earth Wind & Fire   the Rolling Stones
Writing helps with memory they say
I remember a poem about a Bee
and Revery   thank you beloved Emily
Now where did I leave my phone?

YOU’RE SO COOL / Laura Henebry

You could hip check a vending machine and empty it of every fizzy can of pop. You could change a  juke box’s tune with the snap of your fingers. You’re so cool you’re like Steve McQueen’s legendary Highland Green fastback and I’m whipping you around the narrow bend of a mountain road wearing big, round sunglasses and a silk scarf. You’re so cool you’re the relaxed fit of a second-hand brown leather jacket. I swear, you could convince a group of  nuns to leave the convent with the camera flash of your pearly whites! I swear, if you picked up smoking, you would be liable for the uptick in cancer. You’re like the will they or won’t they of Winona Ryder’s and Ethan Hawke’s effortless sexual tension in Reality Bites — you’re  so cool I am tearing you out of my YM magazine, plastering my walls and calling you a heartthrob! You’re the still point in the chaos of the universe — the book brought to be read at the dive bar on a Saturday night. You’re so cool.

Diagnostics  / Alex Moni-Sauri

Different kinds of doctor come to see me. One wears blue gloves,
one talks through a screen, one drowns in a river
on the way home. I make a note to look up later

 Red masklike rash on face
spiritual meaning
Word for a sense of lost bills, missed appointments
Proof of the moon’s effect
on the body

Seeing doctors makes me think I should have chosen
God instead. People in search of an expert are vulnerable
to cults. As many promises of salvation as there are bodies
on earth.

 How to release physical sadness
A moth pins itself in the frame.
My brain a hammered penny.

I try to remember my grandmother’s face, red lipstick smooth and sealed
inside the casket. I think of the fly who was drawn to her forehead,
circling and lighting natural as the sun,
my hand flapping out like an animal bluffing. 

Ode to Pigment / Erika Sashedri

White is no good. It’s the color of hospital walls and inhospitable homes. It’s the insomnia of ceilings and the light before death. It’s the asylum. The gravel road to nowhere. The mood of melting glaciers and ill-fated polar bears. But there is comfort in color. In the light of sun-butter yellow and the weight of turquoise. In countless fleshy hues that hide the shock of bleached bones. In the dance of deep indigo fire and its tangerine flicker. Yes, there is comfort in color. 

Dear Dorothea III / Beth Suter

…I was physically disabled and no one who hasn’t lived the life…knows how much that means. It formed me…helped me and humiliated me. All those things at once. ~Dorothea Lange

Dear Dorothea

            Was it your childhood polio, your tender, stiff-twisted foot, your limping drag, that focused your vision on all those worn-out men in worn-out shoes? I see myself in your lens—a survivor’s eye, the way pain exposes the body, frames a landscape—so many bare feet, the cold toes you want to blow on, the clung-to mother, the split lip you want to kiss.

Day 5 / Poem 5

Personal Violence / Bill Abbott

In one church, a prominent family’s son
around 5 years old, decided he wanted to
attack me every time he saw me,
every Sunday at church.

I was more than twice his age,
towered over him,
and was the son of the preacher.
Dad warned me not to do anything
to Buddy, that it would be bad if I did,
and had no advice other than to avoid
a boy in the same building every week,
an impossibility.

Eventually, Buddy kicked my shin in such a way
that the bone deformed, created a bump
that has been with me ever since.

Nobody else cared.

2023 Playlists / Claudia Arevalo

no boundaries 
Between genres
Colorful mix
Like Sangria
Or Salpicon

To dance
Like Kevin Kline 
Pushing his way out of the closet  
Swept away by Al Pacino
The swishing dress 
As Meg dances
In French Kiss
Love on top 
As you Cook
And Clean
You’re one of the backup dancers 
Wearing torn Levi’s shorts 
No bra

You’re at home 
Singing to your kids
We are the dinosaurs
Stomping around the room
They gleefully follow 

Almost twenty
Christopher’s gay roommate
His taste in American music
No hard rock
No dark stuff 
All the way from sappy 90’s
The 60´s 70´s 80’s 
The Beatles
The Bee Gees

In your fifties
Your teenager’s 
The best thing 
Best friend
Her dress T-shirt 
Her boots

Almost four years ago
A night 
Two months after the train wreck 
Of separation 
Dimples on his cheeks
Best I’ve ever had
You’re not proud 

In your twenties 
The Spice girls 
You dance with your girls
You’re Posh Spice
Nana is Sporty Spice
Maria Jose is Baby Spice 
That memory won’t fade
And somehow 
You’re reminded of the Power Puff girls 
The Lion King
And baby Juan Pablo

Salsa merengue 
In your teens
Teaching your brother’s best friends
How to dance
Behind closed drapes 
Because no dancing no girl
Countless boys
Stretched their hands
And asked you to dance

In your thirties 
Dancing as a ritual 
The hands go lower
The embrace tighter
A romantic song plays 
A whisper in your ear 
A kiss on your cheek
Then your mouth 
You’re lost in the moment
Girl you’re in trouble
The most sensual 
Dance of all
Leads you
To almost two decades
With your lover, a lover
A passionate connection 
With your nemesis 
Sadly not your friend
It all slowly painfully unwinds
The song ends
As he dances with other women
As he tells you
I don’t feel like dancing 
With you
How does this make sense
You’re still you
You still 
Know how to twirl and turn
Your body is in shape 
You’ve given him a child
But you see 
In his macho mind
That’s exactly 
What pushes him away
The fact that you’re still you 
The same woman
Already conquered
A city besieged 
A stolen piece of land
No longer 
Needs to be won 

Bossa nova 
Andrea Boccelli
Il Divo
Italian loves 
Michael Jackson (no more)
Inappropriate rap songs 
Country songs
Red tractor kind of mood
Dancing till you have to take your shoes off
Dancing until the sun rises again
Lo bailao nadie me lo quita 
What has been danced
Cannot be taken away 

On the bus/ Zoe Berger

A cool dad sits 
across from me 
on the bus,
complete with skateboard 
and bucket hat,
his son drooling 
on his knee. 
When I was small 
I’d pretend to sleep 
in the car. I wanted 
to be hoisted 
up the stairs. 
I wanted to be 
laid down. 
Next to me an old man 
remarks on my fragrance, breaks 
me out of my 
daze. Geranium, or gardenia, 
he asks. Tuberose, I think, 
but he is gone. 

Where Doves Fly   / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

Tío José often plugs poison
filled needles in his arm, each high
carrying him to a different dimension. 
A world opposite from the one that exists. 


he isn’t a deadbeat dad, but a fine father who 
spends time with his daughter rather than call her 
every other full moon from a smudged steel cage.
Her shattered voice spills pity through the phone. 


soar around him in this sphere. They’re the ones
that lift him to the highest mountains – closer to
God. Yet no prayers leave his lips, his mouth is wired
shut. Murky rivers of sorrow stream down his face.


north in search of a ghastly dope house, an
abandoned brownstone filled with vials and vermin, 
where you can hear Tío laughing with his friends. 
A white bird sits on his shoulder shedding tears.

Security / Cathy Ferrell


Picture me sitting
in the lumpy lazy-boy
sunk into cozy cushions
in the dark room 
where I have fed and rocked two babies 
through bleary nights.

Picture me
ready to spring up
cling to ceiling
stretching high above
where shadows congregate, then
trace down down 
the wall. They creep 
onto panes glossy and gaping.

Picture me
sweeping the room while rooted 
among lost cheetohs and pennies. 
TV’s silent, staring out 
of one frozen eye.


On the coffee table, a dark shapeless thing sits in a wad, trails over the edge onto the floor. I hinge forward. I reach. I touch. It is soft, fuzzy. I see it is spotted with something. Light blue with darker blue blots. The blots are shapes. Little trains with green smoke.


I wanted my mimi. The ratty spotted navy-blue stinky-slick-rayon-covered thing that used to be a baby pillow. I wanted to clutch it in my fists, bring it up to my face, bury my nose in it, close my eyes, and breathe. I wanted it, musty old thing. A mi’mir…time to sleep, she said. When are you going to stop sleeping with that? Are you going to take it to bed with you when you’re married? What will your husband think? The questions darted, sharp as the points of abuela’s lacquered bronze fingernails. Sharp enough to rip mimi from seam to seam. I held the pillow to my chest just in case. She often fed me with those same fingers, baby-bird style. 


Picture this. 
It’s musty, 
acrid as old diapers. 
She rattles and rasps. 
Her eyes flit open, shut. 
She can’t see past her cataracts. 
I sit by her adjustable bed. 
The ceiling creeps low. 
The blinds are closed but fingers of light 
seep in, reaching 
I sit, I hold her hand. 
I touch her face. 
I stand. 
I straighten the blanket 
over her body,
tuck it around her cheeks. 
It’s me, abuela. Soy yo.


Now, I rise I reach I grasp the fuzzy blue blanket in my fist. I press it to my face and inhale the lingering haunt of baby powder. I walk across the room. I kick a book on the floor and it scuttles across. I go to my daughter’s room. I lay the blanket over her. It doesn’t reach her long legs, but I tuck it up around her cheeks.


Irene  / Michelle Frost

My client with dementia is always smiling
Agreeable &fun-loving   she chimes-in “Absolutely!”  and  “Oh, is that right?” 
Watching TV together  she repeats
the commercial jingles and phone numbers
She notices bold colors and  exclaims
“That looks really nice!” Out of the blue today
“You look really nice right now!” pointing at my maroon scrubs  my slip-on Skechers
It warms my heart  I thank her  we keep 
watching Dr. Phil and eating our egg salad sandwiches
Sometimes the clouds drift apart 
and you enjoy a moment of clear blue sky
She and her husband were both retired military raised a family and spent every free minute
on a sailboat in the Puget Sound  
Once upon a time


congratulations—! We have made it
eight to ten business days without
calling each other a name, or raising
our voices like sirens
on fire trucks cannonballing down
our street.
congratulations—! Therapy is finally
sticking. We are learning what good
our open mouths can do by
licking clean  dirty dinner plates left
overnight to soak in the sink.
congratulations—! Abandon coasters!
Marvel as our plants shrivel from
green to brown. The wad
of hair clogging our bathtub turns
every shower into a flood. 
congratulations—! I’ve been so good,
in spite of you. I have become the
world’s most agreeable person,
just like you


Untitled  / Alex Moni-Sauri

A woman holds an infant to her breast inside a small ruin
of Herculaneum. The summer sun is bleaching bones
for archeologists to stack inside a cave. There’s caution 
tape around the bone room; nothing for the baby.
Tour groups peek heads in and move away.
The woman does not turn, the two of them swaying
and letting off light. I hear her humming from the next room
of every room I’m in.

To Be Wild / Erika Sashedri

I followed your beast
                            into dank woods.

He was raw and unkempt
                a mange-ridden coyote.

Now we run,
             chins to the heavens—chuffing breath
                        in off-key frigid wisps:
                     our boreal moon-song

We are defiant. Unapologetic
                                             in our hunger.

Chasing opulence into extinction.

We are riotous. Feral.
                  Inured to the forest.

Barefoot in the deepest decay.

For it is better to be wild
            than tethered
                                   to cravings
           or locked within bland expectations,

               for death.

Ozark Truckin’ / Beth Suter

seven hours to Slaughterville
sigogglin roads, they must have followed a drunk cow
possum-light, dogwood-light
Everybody wants Wild Turkey for Christmas


tornado in Toad Suck, cave-light
sound of rain on the camper shell, like a cow peeing on a flat rock
Midnight Taxidermy


Booger Branch Road, crooked as a kinked snake
full strut wild turkey tom spitting at his reflection in the truck grill
Free Grace Church, June-bug-light


Robber’s Cave reunion, family lore, who abetted Belle Starr
Queen of the Oklahoma Outlaws Lodge, dust-devil-light
whistle pig roadkill, good eatin’ when we was kids
It’s Better Than a Partridge and You Don’t Need a Pear Tree

Day 4 / Poem 4

Appeals to the Almighty / Bill Abbott

After a lifetime of living with these people,
I suppose I could add my body
to their grave plot. I have nowhere
else in mind, after all. Nowhere at all.
But imagine if the dead could talk
to each other. Imagine if I had eternity
in that dark grave
with that hyper-critical set of parents
complaining and hating on me
for trying to be me.
Imagine the hundreds of years of
beratement and putting down
because I wasn’t a clone of them.

The one thing I’ve learned
after a lifetime of growing up
in that house, it’s that I’m a disappointment,
despite what they might have said. Despite
my mother claiming for all of my life
that I was her favorite child but
never accepting me.
There’s no redemption
in that story arc.

If there is a heaven, my parents are up there,
yelling at the angels
about how I’m doing everything wrong,
trying to persuade their God
that I am such a sinner and how much
I deserve His punishment.

Berlin / Claudia Arevalo

The two young women
Sit by the water fountain
They take a break
Eating strawberries and fries 
Drinking beer
Across from them 
A homeless couple 
Then the man 
Starts making orangutan noises 
On their right side 
There’s another man 
He starts grunting back 
After a while they stop 
The man turns to the woman 
And growls at her face 
Then gives her a hard kiss 
She starts picking something out of his hair 
He grabs her 
She crawls on top 
And they dry hump 
Right there and then 
In the middle of a park 
In Berlin 
No one does anything 
The girls stare 
And smile 

Taxi / Zoe Berger

This is a new one 
For me, feeling this light
Last night I took a car, felt it 
Taking flight under me

Mary, I prayed, I am willing
To be dazzled, why not 
Sprout wings, this yellow cab in the sky 
Taking the long way home

The Fire Between Us  / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

From the ocean we were 
born, ripples along waves 

echoing through 
vallies like cornetts,

drums beating ceaselessly 
to the croon of the sun

Black hands gripping
tools carved from acacia 

between taut palms.
Bare knuckles slice
the wind in pieces.

Into the fire we were 
thrown, carbon steel 
held over a charring keg
orange embers floating

against gravity toward
the sky, a kettle sizzles 
granting kingdoms to

off the swing of a sword,
all that you see has been 

built from blood and bone. 
Murals carved into stone 

etching names into eternity. 
Though books were burned
distorting stories, our names 

stripped down to welted skin, 
lights from torches passed down 
from our ancestors keep the
blaze burning within.

Have you ever wondered 
why a child is born each time 
a flame expires? 

The end and the beginning 
share a seat at the same table
next to the fire that divides.

small feral thing / Cathy Ferrell

I can’t stop writing
about the cranes
the field full of robins
the slash across the sky small and sharp like
the scar on the meat of my thumb
I can’t stop feeling 
my own hair
tumbling tumbling 
I am a thing wild
as hooves thrumming 
small flowers 
out of stale ground
reaching up on tiptoes
arms wide, soaring
I can’t stop 
yearning back toward earth,
by the mingling 
of soil and rain

Tethered / Michelle Frost

There are places we leave gladly or sadly
Never to see again
and places we return to often
tethered as we are like kites
A kite imagines it is free in the clouds
The faces we love shining up to see us

ODE TO THE GIRL’S GIRL / Laura Henebry

thank you for the tampon, the emergency wad of cotton sparing my jeans. you come prepared to slay — in your chain mail and platform heels. ready for mimosa flights at brunch. armed with a pre selection of feel-good karaoke songs from the early aughts. you are the sharp dagger of liquid eyeliner. you move like a feral battle cry ripping through whorls of an overgrown field — you’re so fucking brave there are at least ten flourishing gardens sowed as monuments in your name. 

ode to the girl’s girl. the sit with you while you dry your eyes in the bar’s bathroom girl. boogieing in thread-bare pajamas in your living room girl. the doesn’t take any shit girl. the I never liked them anyway girl. the your ass looks great in those jeans girl. the carpool sing along to my sharona girl. the bring you oranges when you’re sick girl. the please text me when you get home girl.

Harbor  / Alex Moni-Sauri

A man points from a high rock out into the sea
saying look, look! to the toddler in his arms,
the child looking only at his face, kissing it and laughing
with the mouth’s warm breath, the ocean reaching
up in sprays.

The lighthouse behind them, immovable,
slides its eye through a thicket of trees: red
bark, red bark, red bark, black.

Forgiveness / Erika Sashedri

I crave the arc of your lines
borne from soft charcoal. smudged
by these infinite fingertips.
An exercise in imperfection, whereby,
I am rising with forgiveness, and
you are becoming the forgiven.
Otherwise, our grudges begin to
stack—one on another—like
unread magazines. The top of the
pile always threatening the bottom
with mutiny.  

Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona, November, 1940, Dorothea Lange / Beth Suter

I had to get my camera to register the things…that were more important than how poor they were—their pride, their strength, their spirit. ~Dorothea Lange

like grandpa’s hands
furrowed palms, raked knuckles
hands that know harrows—
when we was kids we’d get whipped
if we didn’t work—
woodchopping, water-toting hands
fingernails pared with a pocketknife
scrubbed on Sunday hands
it’s resting as makes me tired—
feels like waiting around to die

Day 3 / Poem 3

Surreal / Claudia Arevalo

A day told backwards 
The spinal cord of a cadaver
Buying fruits
A half eaten wonton soup 
A conversation 
With daughter 
About a grocery store lobster
That became a pet
That grooms itself 
And poops in the corner 
Food poisoning 
With an impossible burger 
Photos of 
Oysters with small pearls of 
Frozen cheese
Lobster tails 
Covered in green and yellow
A new concept 
In an old two star restaurant 
In Köln
Tea with friends 
Conversation about aging and mothers 
Some weeping 
At a cozy home
Taking pictures 
A street corner opera singer
Bésame bésame mucho 
O sole mio
Singing along 
Giving two tiny cars
To two young boys
Flat whites and croissants 
With a friend 
Long warm shower 

Paul / Zoe Berger

I see Paul six days a week. 
We shoot pool, smoke weed,
talk shit about the bar. 
I asked him once
what age he’d like to be. 
He replied eight,
having just seen 
his first Mad Magazine
in the dime store in Baltimore
with his grandmother, 
who bought it for him. 
I didn’t ask why 
he wanted to experience that 
again. I figured him being a writer 
was enough of an explanation. 
But I don’t know what 
it might’ve meant to him, 
the potential hours on his belly 
with his feet kicked up, tearing 
through the cartoons. 
The flashlight nights 
he might’ve spent 
under the covers, 
giggling to himself. 
The birth of a writer,
the beginning of my friend. 

It’s Raining in San Juan  / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

A serene mist blankets La Ciudad in a cloak of pearly fog,
boulders at the base of El Morro gleam under the moon

each cobblestone street illuminates an amorous path back to the sea,
where rain was conceived.

Every song that leaves a cloud gives birth to a flower, 

tunes leaping from thirsty soil into the lungs of parched stems. 

Balmy droplets bounce off our bellies in this garden, stomachs brimful of
lush fruit that nourish our petals with ecstasy, 

here is the place where water erects more art than exhibits. 

We cry in silence to the sound of quenépa violins. 

We laugh with sealed nostrils as we slice onions for sofríto. 

We dance salsa even in droughts, do not mistake this for a raindance. 

Their reluctance to help following each storm is drenched with vast hope 
that we’ll lay down and die. 

But we sing along with the rain, til there’s enough food for children unborn 
and all our problems have washed away.

Thank you note/ Cathy Ferrell

(for Kai Coggin)

I bought your book and you sent it to me signed, with shiny star confetti tucked into the spine. I admired the cover art, the crisp turn of each page, the texture under my palm. A star slid out onto the floor, luminous little thing. I tucked it back in. I placed your book in the basket near my bed.

It was a rough year. I froze for awhile. Everything was very still. I was angry. I was tired. I cleaned when I could. I moved your book from basket to bookshelf.

That year while my grays grew in like weeds you were planting little lives on pages. They sprouted.

I picked it up the other day.

I carry things with me around the house, forgetting then finding them again, usually when I’m looking for something else I have let rest. Keys, pens, coffee, thoughts

I find little gold stars sprinkled in random places. Tell me, will they grow?

Shirley / Michelle Frost

There’s a dove at my window
Let’s call her Shirley
Gentle and soft like my Aunt Shirley
Shirley is peering in at the cat
My chattering wide-eyed cat Shady
Now Tina is awake   the barky Terrier
Shirley looks as if to say WOW,
Such a fuss the four-leggeds make!
I smile to share my understanding 
Shirley winks and flies away
My visiting dove   twice today
Cooing her news at my window
Sweet little lovey dove Shirley


for not being the epitome of a good time.  for photoshopping a Steve Jobs turtleneck on that unsolicited picture of a cock. because Jimbo, 35, with hand tattoos, thinks I’d be cuter if I didn’t eat cake. because Jimbo, 35, with hand tattoos, swears I’m not like other girls. for canceling, again. for neither confirming nor denying if I devour the wriggling souls of tormented men. for listing my employment as AI prototype at Skynet; as fembot at Virtucon Industries. for being a tease. for not being a tease. for being too hard to please. for leaving everyone on read. for refusing to meet him at his remote lake house at midnight on Friday the 13th. because I refuse to be the static scream of an off-screen kill. for disappearing a few days around every full moon. for wanting to dramatically fling myself into the wilds of the fog lifting from the evergreens every time someone asks what I do for a job. for wanting a romance with all the aching tension of the hand scene from the  2005 Pride & Prejudice film. for not settling for anything less than bewitching you, body and soul. because I am afraid of a world where I am forced to listen to your jam band while drinking a vodka cran. because I can’t pretend to like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance again. 

One way  / Alex Moni-Sauri

Time falls through me
certain as a line
singular as Monday 
listening to me as you might
listen to the leaves, 
walking like an old woman
going home with groceries 

The Poet, With Children / Erika Sashedri

I only know of fur and wings,
and other things skin-deep

Mom, I can’t find my left sock.

 permanent physical marks

from perishable fingertips

Mom, the dog threw up.

 on cave walls 

I’m hungry. Can I have ice cream?


Did you know that one bee makes less than
a teaspoon of honey in its whole life? That
doesn’t seem right.

 *gives up*

Dear Dorothea II / Beth Suter

…the camera becomes a beautiful instrument for the purpose of saying to the world in general: This is the way it is. Look at it! Look at it! ~Dorothea Lange

Dear Dorothea

            We’re still here, living under bridges in our broke-down cars, picking grapes for your well-balanced wines. The old folks said, money is the root of all evil. What did you believe? Everything changed and nothing, shacktowns, tent cities, people plum wore out before forty. Another drought-driven migration, shoes with holes. You would have plenty of material for your next show. Who will make the world see us now?

Day 2 / Poem 2

When Despair Arrives / Bill Abbott

I’ve been whispering truths
to the ignoring stone guardians,
dreaming of lost love
in the time of Orphic fantasies,
giving away the secrets of life,
sinking my way further into
the reality that nothing I do
will ever matter.

I’ve been wishing I knew
how to starve this cold
of irrelevance
and feed the fever of justice,
hoping to find my way out of the
labyrinth of desperation,
face down all the minotaurs of doubt,
and claim the prize at the exit,

but there’s a hollow echo in my brain,
a whistling void to stare down,
a distraction made up of all of the pieces
left behind after it all shattered
across these stone steps.

I’ve given the reins over,
put myself away in exchange for
a few minutes of sanity
in a reality gone mad.

Better to light a match than
to curse the darkness,
but I’m fresh out of matches.

The refuge of female habitation  / Claudia Arevalo

It’s 3:00 a.m.
On a Friday 
I wake up to rain 
On my face 
There are leaks
On our roof 
The Chilean maintenance guy
Comes every now and then 
And “fixes” them
I walk around the loft 
Placing towels 
On top of books 
I start to think
About the homeless 
In the streets of NYC 
In particular 
The one 
Who has recently 
Been evicted 
And has settled himself
Under the Williamsburg bridge 
He has his mattress 
Two night tables
Books on top 
Of the night tables 
A rug 
He must be soaking wet
His bed 
His tables
His books 
At this very moment 
While I just had to move my head 
To the bottom of my bed
There are so many 
Who can’t do anything 
But wait for the morning 
For the rain to stop 
For the sun 
My heart beats fast
I feel deep empathy
But in a few minutes
I’ll close my eyes
Go back to sleep
And will wake up 
Drowned in the worries
Of my own life 
Like an animal in her cave 
An ostrich with her head
Buried in the dirt 
Don’t we all kind of just look away?

Time in relief / Zoe Berger

Watching you shave 
reminds me of pencil rubbings 
as a kid, the soft side 
shading over paper’s relief. 
Later, near sleep, 
my mother (in trying to give me 
a lesson about budgeting)
recalls a new memory:
her mother running away,
just a little. 
Still small, a child 
would forget. 
You’d never know. 
Still, in different lifetimes,
the past lays bare. 

Violet Feathers / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

Purple reign leaks 
beneath hoary clouds 
shaped like crowns

dripping gold onto our 
heads as violet tears 
smear across slender walls.

I’ve witnessed warm homes 
turn brittle due to somber  
dreams, a sadder sight than
leaves losing their color. 

The way we survey feathers
as they slash through autumn winds,
eyes fixed on warmer ways, 
is identical to how our fantasies 

watch us from afar in the hours of 
indigo, just before the sun. A bowl filled 
with sorrow is served for breakfast,

the regretful taste wrapped around
your tongue knowing that if you ever
return to this place, nothing will be
the same. 

Speak now or forever hold/ Cathy Ferrell

the poems in my head
are sad
are angry
are not ready
to speak
so they come out
cotton (candy) mouthed
they fool everyone
into not feeling
their chaos
their sting

But there is no

standing there,
nothing coming out,
I offer an open-mouthed

We chase dandelion fluff.
We come home peppered
with burs.

Keep your arms around me.
Why do you pull away?

Christmas Forever / Michelle Frost

You travel home from the funeral 
it’s Southwest Airlines’ Fun Flight
one week before Christmas 
Snowy slopes far below and up here
in clouds the passengers sing carols
Dozens of red Santa hats bobbing
blinking jewelry   tinsel & fluff
Your tears blur the festive scene
Below in the cold   no signs of life
A young man sits next to you
silent until he turns and speaks
My father just died
You tell him your father just died
Your face and his    two clocks 
Two round moons   a pair of grief
A comfortable silence between you then
Quiet Island in the Christmas Sea
You hug goodbye at the gate   Turn & Go


on the topic of the spare toothbrush with its wintergreen bristles and silver ridged handle kept in plastic packaging in the back of my medicine cabinet;                                                    

they were on sale at Target when we started texting, when you started tickling my palm with my phone. tricking my teeth into goofy grins next to the toiletries, and this is what happens 

when you’re not in love, but are starting to slip into something that feels like love — 

you go to the store for body wash and come home with a new toothbrush when you don’t need one.

Orienting / Alex Moni-Sauri

a map of each decision made in life
by each person, swallow, ant
stretches out into the sky a rabid beating sail,
a perfect pocket for the wind. the wind
is on the map.
look at what is in the room: a ladder
of light against the wall, living hum
from the refrigerator, my finger
running over everything
like dust. the rest is the mind
making taffy of the clouds.
I know that there are things at work
too small and bright to see: a web
of gears, the infinite grass, a trillion mite-
sized hammers, grinders, belts and brooms
churning velvet under seas, over sediment
and skin. a person swallows. an ant
divides its loop of sun
into many little tasks.
my life, a bed,
is warm and huge
and everything around me
within reach.

I Am Not the Refugee / Erika Sashedri

I do not take this shingled roof for granted,
                                 nor these sturdy walls
scarred as they may be.

I’m simply thankful that I am not the refugee,
the lost-at-sea
where tarpaulin waves 
house cholera
and hunger.

I do not take this fragile peace for granted,   
                          as I feel the weight of war
from half a world away.

I’m simply thankful that I am not the refugee,
dragging my life
in a broken suitcase,
cat tucked under
one arm.

Damaged Child, Shacktown, Elm Grove, Oklahoma, Dorothea Lange, 1936 / Beth Suter

  I had in my early years, before I was fully grown, a great many things to meet, some very difficult…that a child shouldn’t really   meet alone. ~Dorothea Lange

like how, as a child, my grandma

walked into her big brother’s axe swing—

head all tore up, it like to kilt me

 no doctor, but a mother of herbs and moonshine

Ma knew all the plants on the mountain

 you doctored yourself—

litany of siblings living and dead

Ma had twelve babies, kept ten alive

 life with the odd seizure

from whatever the axe broke

Day 1 / Poem 1

Limitations / Bill Abbott

My parents had a very conditional love,
one that depended on what I liked, what I did,
what grades I earned. Everything reflected
on dad’s career, after all. Minister for all those
small-town churches is very political
on a local level, with every church member
having an opinion on how dad should do his job.
On how his children should behave. On how
his wife did. Mom enjoyed it, leaned into the
drama. The kids had no chance.
It was neglect or direct control.

This poisoned apple life, where I never
knew how much to trust anyone, taught to trust
everyone in the church, taught to suffer in silence
lest someone complain. Perfect all the time, lest someone
complain. I wasn’t consciously aware of the walls on
every side, constantly constricting, and what good would it do
to notice them anyway? Would it have been better to be aware
of the lack of air? Would it have mattered that I had no
freedom to do, to think, to be? Would I have been different
if there wasn’t a regular chance of dad throwing my stuff
in the fireplace lest it influence me toward Satan?
I still don’t know why he didn’t throw the role playing books in.

But the limits existed, and when I left home, I was so
unprepared. I didn’t even know who I was outside of
their all-sides walls. I lacked the skills to breathe without
the constant smothering and limitations.
I didn’t understand socializing, how to have
any sort of relationship with anyone, how to be alone
with my own thoughts. I couldn’t explain my beliefs
more than usual. Everything was so open and so lonely
and who was going to tell me what I had to do
every second. Who would tell me what to think?
How was I supposed to be my own person when nobody
had let me before this point? This space, this freedom,
was too big. I was so small. 

Here she comes again / Claudia Arevalo

Should I run 
Or crouch down
If I run 
She’ll follow 
If I crouch
She’ll grab me
And will cradle me 
Like a baby 
Squeeze me
Until I can hardly breathe 
She knows 
When to let 
Me go 
If she doesn’t loosen her grip
I bite her head
I scratch her arms
She doesn’t learn 
And keeps on doing it
Again and again 
She still feeds me 
And makes sure 
I drink enough water 
I’m not better 
Than her
I think she’s my equal
My toy 
I follow her to the kitchen
Fall on my back 
Expose my belly 
I’m at her mercy
I want to be 
By her feet
I want to be squeezed 
Between her legs
I must confess
I even pry the door open
When she’s using the toilet
I go in 
And stare at her
The smell doesn’t bother me
She’s deeply familiar 
With mine too
And when I sense
That she’s going through some
Tough times 
I sleep close to her 
If I can
I curl up 
On her chest
I comfort her
And feel her warmth 
In return
I hope this 
Never ends 
How many years
Can a human live? 

Moose / Zoe Berger

There is no limit to how much 
one can waste.
Here’s a true story:
Two moose locked antlers in a fight 
and fell into a river. 
They froze there, trapped 
in eight inches of ice, found only 
by the town’s science teacher,
who mounted the heads 
as a lesson. 
I am trying to be convinced
to back down.

Color Waves / Isaiah Diaz-Mays

Death is near certain
floating in boundless seas
purple waves choke 
our hopes into orange dusk.

Red tears melt the deck as the 
sun jolts us from furtive sleep. 

Better that         than the master, 
better this          than that. 
Black bodies swim
in gray waters while 

dreams of grasping green keep
my brittle hopes alive. 

I exhale as I wipe white sand off my
skin once my toes brush the shore. 

Did you almost drown getting here? 
I’ve held my breath for a thousand 
seconds, at least a thousand times.


How to write a poem/ Cathy Ferrell

Feel some kind of way about the thing that happened this morning or ten years ago. Sit. Open your laptop. Open your notebook. Maybe holding a pen will help. Close the notebook. Close the laptop. Itch your scalp. Wash your face. Remember to use eye cream. Look at your closed laptop. Open it. Maybe you need another cup of coffee. Maybe you need your favorite mug. Maybe you had too much coffee. Maybe your house is a mess. Question yourself. Question the thing that happened this morning or ten years ago. Why are you so angry? Rage clean. The disposal’s broken, so you have to reach inside to scrub out the gunk. It’s gross. Wash your hands. Breath big. Read. Scroll. Get the pen. Tap tap tap it and maybe a few words will leak out. Must be out of ink. Take a walk. Take a shower. Think about the thing that happened this morning or ten years ago. Think about the rearing impulse to rage clean. Sit. Write about the chair.

A Covey of Baby Quail / Michelle Frost

We are spies at the window

My sister and I and her kitchen sink
She tells me they arrive like this daily
Single-file tottering birds on the adobe wall
A line-up of young Quails popping up
one by one we count 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
a clown car of desert fledglings 
Seemingly endless   tiny top hats in a row
The curled feather above each like a question
where to run   what was that   who are they
My sister was a cute baby Quail   still is
We hurry to the next window to keep spying
Dad Quail appears finally   black face & chest
Stoic caboose   end of the line   tall & proud
They race then along the wall to the front 
and down they hop to peck the gravel yard
Daylight sweeps its golden broom 
in that magic we are children again
delighting in silly birds   Joyful   we settle in
her kitchen glowing   two red goblets of wine

CRUSH / Laura Henebry

you are starving. you are hungrier than you have ever been.

you are just a boy — you have always been, and still  

I am cubing watermelon so swollen they burst from the squeeze of your pink tongue. I am feeding you my thighs — an orchard dripping with ruby red apples bruising under the pluck of your thumb.

 this is a metaphor.

 this is a metaphor for how soft I am becoming.

We all live here now / Alex Moni-Sauri

Your body in tubes 
looped around a storklike rack. 
Everyone a station. 

A sign above the purell pump says 
Nourishment; another says
No Swallowing. Language turns 

into a bird we watch through glass. 

Everything beeps. Especially 
the heart. A nurse who listens 
asks you now

if you would like to hear. How well 
your pump is working. Says 
Every time I hear a heart 

I get a little crush
I’m comfortable now 
using words like God 

to mean the string
between two beads.

So Comes Autumn / Erika Sashedri

in her subtle ways
there’s a breeze beneath
the heat today—
a promise to defuse
the bulk of summer

so comes autumn,
her ripened flesh
and readied roots
whisper through long shadows
in fields beyond the cider mill

so comes autumn,
her golden harvest moon
shines bold and steady
through the window
to my tomb

Dear Dorothea / Beth Suter

One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind. ~Dorothea Lange

Dear Dorothea

            What did you make of us, barefoot, plowing hardpan without a mule? The old folks asked, What would a banker need with a mule? Foreclosed as soon as six brothers went west to work the canneries. Worthless as a banker’s word. Did it burn your retina to stay your lens on hunger’s eye? I dream in your lush, grayscale language, winter white oaks in fog, what we must have looked like to you, the country under cracked fingernails.